By Betsy Dolan
A woman stormed out of the cafeteria at George Ranch High School last Thursday night venting to her husband about what they had just learned in the latest public workshop regarding the Segment C phase of the Grand Parkway project.
“We’ll be staring at a 25 foot frigging wall. That’s going to be the view from our backyard!”, she said.
Others were not as upset.
“I’m in favor of it. I’m for progress,” said Mike Kassey who lives in Greatwood. “I would prefer that it not be a toll road, though.”
The workshop put on by the Federal Highway Administration, Texas Department of Transportation and the Grand Parkway Association, provided residents the chance to view the proposed route and to look at the recently completed Federal Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Segment C is a proposed 26-mile, four-lane, controlled access toll road with intermittent frontage roads running from U.S. 59 S to Texas 288.
The current design has the route traveling near several subdivisions including Greatwood, Canyon Gate, Tara, and Bridlewood.
“Is it the chicken or the egg? I think we are being reactive to the growth that is occurring and will continue to occur in Fort Bend County,” said David Gornet, Executive Director of the Grand Parkway Association. “People will continue to move out here and we are planning on building this road to respond to traffic that will be there in the future.”
But Brandt Mannchew with the Houston chapter of the Sierra Club disagrees. He claims the road is being constructed to lure development into the area not the other way around.
“This is being touted as a regional road project but it is really a land development scheme,” Mannchew said. “When you build the roads the developers follow. We need to deal with transportation issues where the people and the traffic issues are right now.”
Fort Bend County Commissioner and Greatwood resident, Richard Morrison, campaigned against the project in 2007. He said the county wants to take local control of Segment C like they did with Segment D, currently under construction north of U.S. 59.
“We don’t want TxDOT in control,” Morrison said. They could sell the rights to Segment C to another company or even to a foreign company without the county having any say so and we don’t want that. It scares all of us.”
One thing no one disputes, is that the Segment C project will only happen when funds permit and that isn’t likely any time soon. Yet the completion of the FEIS and the county’s purchase of land along the proposed route, worries some residents who are prepared to fight the proposal.
“We’re not anti-toll. We’re pro-mobility where it makes sense,” said Lynn Franklin, a community organizer who formed Stop Tolls on the Parkway (STOP) in 2007. “We are not in favor of things that disturb the environment or for decisions that displace businesses or adversely affect our neighbors.”
Dan Hoelscher, a Bridlewood resident who is opposed to the plan, is trying to look on the bright side.
“If this thing goes through, the view from my backyard pool will be the Grand Parkway. Maybe a trucker could toss me a beer once in a while,” he joked.