By Vanesa Brashier, email@example.com
Liberty County is partnering with the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) on a comprehensive traffic study that will identify traffic problems and provide solutions for the county as it continues to grow. The study will be the first of its kind for Liberty County.
“We’ve never had a comprehensive traffic study before. The cities have done some studies on their own but there has never been one for the county as a whole,” said Liberty County Judge Jay Knight.
With the population expected to jump from the current figure of 84,000 to 100,000 by 2020, the timing of the study comes at a critical point in time.
The study will be performed by a consulting engineering firm and is projected to cost $500,000. HGAC is paying for 90 percent of the costs while Liberty County will pay 10 percent. Liberty County, as an entity, is providing $20,000 while the economic development corporations in the principal cities of Cleveland, Dayton and Liberty will each pay $10,000 for a total of $50,000.
“We’re getting one heck of a bargain,” said Knight. “The study will take about 18 months and will begin as soon as HGAC receives a check for $50,000 and a resolution from commissioners court.”
According to Knight, the study will help the county qualify for transportation grants through HGAC and the Texas Department of Transportation.
“HGAC and TxDOT have a call for projects every five years. What happens is if we don’t have some record for Liberty County of where the problem areas are, with consideration for growth and demographics, then we don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to applying for grants,” Knight said.
The study will identify the critical transportation needs of the county and identify areas that choke the flow of vehicle traffic. For county and city officials who deal with the transportation issues on a regular basis, the problems areas are already known, the judge said.
“We already know where they are because we’ve been here,” he said.
The US 90 railroad crossing west of Dayton will undoubtedly be included as a traffic problem, but Knight says a plan is already in the works through TxDOT.
“The plan is to move the railroad crossing further west and have a four-lane overpass, so traffic will not stop for the railroad in the future,” Knight said.
He looks for a bypass for Dayton to be among the study’s recommendations, particularly as the city is poised for tremendous growth in the next few years.
David Douglas, head of the county’s engineering department, sits on the Transportation Committee for HGAC, and says the traffic study will be tied in with anticipated growth centers, particularly the areas north and west of Dayton.
“There are thousands of acres that are not currently under plow right now in the Dayton area and can be developed. It will identify those areas and tell developers how they need to build their roads when they put them in,” Douglas said. “It will also address the tie-ins to the Grand Parkway.”
COUNTY JUDGE PUSHING FOR DRAINAGE STUDY
Transportation is only one concern as more developments move into the county, Knight said. Recent rains have further highlighted the need for a countywide drainage plan.
“With a comprehensive drainage plan, one that is adopted by commissioners court, especially were the county to form a countywide drainage plan and absorb the existing drainage districts, then we have something to work with as developers come in,” Knight said. “They will know the type of work that needs to be performed in their development area. They would have to follow the county’s plan and pay for it. That’s the beauty of it if we move in that direction and quit jacking around with it.”
Knight knows convincing county residents to vote on a countywide drainage district will be a challenge, but believes their resolve to oppose a plan is getting washed away with each drenching rain the county receives.
“People hate special districts. There are people preaching about it every day, but many people just have water on their property and want it gone now,” the judge said.
Knight believes it is imperative that the county perform a drainage study now before more growth arrives. He is hoping the county can apply for a grant for the plan through a state agency, like the General Land Office.
“If we move fast enough with a comprehensive drainage plan, there is still enough available land in the county where a drainage system can be put in place,” he said. “If we wait too long and the developments are already there, it will be much more costly to the county.”