“Montgomery County has a traffic problem, and something must be done about it.”
Utter that statement to county residents and you’ll get a similar response to what you would hear had you just told them the sky is blue and Washington is incompetent. It’s a fact, and it’s terribly frustrating.
Traffic has gotten to the point that it is unavoidable in most parts of the county. FM 1488 at peak hours is often backed up from I-45 all the way to SH 242. In the late afternoon it can take 30 minutes simply to travel half a mile down Sawdust Road. Research Forest and Lake Woodlands Dr. are no longer alternatives to the traffic on The Woodlands Parkway, as they now carry their own traffic. And the intersection of FM 1488 and FM 1774 has long been considered the worst snafu in the entire county.
Montgomery County is growing at a rapid pace, but its growth should not come as a surprise given the county’s proximity to Houston. While traffic increases inevitably accompany growth, gross congestion on such a large scale does not, unless poor planning is thrown into the mix. Indeed, poor planning is a reliable culprit in our county government, whose elected commissioners have failed to put together a countywide mobility plan for years, despite the upticks in growth. Despite being one of the most populous counties in the state – as well as one of the fastest growing, and home to best-in-state school districts and the headquarters of such corporations as Anadarko, Chevron Phillips, and Woodforest National Bank – Montgomery County is still operating its budget as if it were the 1920s. Instead of prioritizing projects across the county, commissioners instead split the budget four ways, giving each commissioner an equal share of the pie for use in their individual fiefdoms. This means that less population-dense precincts receive the same amount of funding as precincts with a higher population-density, and therefore, more urgent construction and repair needs; it is the reason why there is a sprawling, little-used road in precinct 1 named after the current commissioner, while the more populated precinct 3 has dire needs that for years have gone unfunded.
While poor planning may have caused the majority of our traffic problems to date, there is another culprit – one who has long resided in commissioners court - to whom we will be able to attribute a failure to solve these current problems. It is equal parts political conceit and fiscal irresponsibility, but is better known in political terminology as “business as usual.”
The last road bond approved by Montgomery County voters was a $160 million bond in 2005. In 2011, voters rejected a $200 million bond due to a lack of specification of projects for which the money would be used. Voters were right to do so, as Montgomery County is one of the highest indebted counties in Texas. Commissioners should not ask the voters to simply trust them that the money is needed and will go toward the county’s highest priorities; they should plan a specific use for every dollar and make that project list available to the public before a vote is taken.
Commissioners have the opportunity to address the county’s mobility needs in a $350 million road bond they plan to present before the voters on May 9th of this year. They have taken steps to include a project list (even though 17% of the budget for Precinct 1 is “to be determined”), and formed a committee to identify construction and repair needs in the county. The committee identified...