Grand Parkway section connecting New Caney to Baytown opens Thursday

Texas Department of Transportation employees from the Beaumont and Houston districts were joined by local elected officials, business leaders and dignitaries on Wednesday for the grand opening of the Grand Parkway's 54-mile segment that connects New Caney to Baytown, traveling through Dayton and Plum Grove along the way.

After decades in the planning and years of construction, the final 54-mile-long section of the Grand Parkway that connects New Caney to Baytown will open Thursday afternoon.

At 184 miles long, the Grand Parkway is the longest highway loop in the entire United States. It is the third circumferential highway around the Greater Houston Area – the others being the 610 Loop and Beltway 8. The first section of the Grand Parkway – Segment D in Fort Bend County – opened in 1994. Construction of the final segments – H, I-1 and I-2 – began in 2018.

At a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, May 18, held near the intersection of Grand Parkway and US 90 in Dayton, Quincy Allen, director of district operations for all 25 TxDOT districts in the state, said the project is a major milestone for TxDOT.

Officials from Liberty and Chambers counties took part in the grand opening celebration of the Grand Parkway on Officials from Liberty and Chambers counties took part in the grand opening celebration of the Grand Parkway on Wednesday. Pictured left to right are Chambers County Pct. 4 Commissioner Billy Combs, Liberty County Pct. 3 Commissioner David Whitmire, Liberty County Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson, District 18 State Rep. Ernest Bailes, Chambers County Pct. 3 Commissioner Tommy G. Hammond, Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, Liberty County Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur, Will Carter with U.S. Rep. Brian Babin’s office, Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman-Harkness, Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader, Cole Michalk with State Senator Brandon Creighton’s office and Joshua Lyrock with District 23 State Rep. Mayes Middleton’s office.

“For more than half of my life, I have heard about the Grand Parkway. This project will help us meet the tremendous transportation needs in this area. We are thrilled to bring this section to you, which represents almost a third of the entire loop,” Allen said.

Wednesday’s celebration was joined by TxDOT personnel from the Houston and Beaumont districts, construction leaders and teams from the Grand Parkway Infrastructure, and local and area civic, county and community leaders.

Allen praised the seamless collaborative efforts of the Beaumont and Houston TxDOT districts as they worked together through the $895 billion highway project. The segment from New Caney to Baytown accounts for approximately $1.28 billion of the overall costs.

“Projects like this one are the end product of many years of planning, right-of-way acquisitions, things like that,” Allen said. “As we are finishing up this project, people are already asking, ‘What’s next?’ Plenty!” Allen said.

Construction of the Grand Parkway was funded through a mixture of toll road revenue bonds and government loans. The State plans to recoup some of the costs by collecting toll fees from the drivers who use the highway. Once the highway opens on Thursday afternoon, motorists can enjoy a two-day grace period before tolls begin at midnight on Saturday, May 21. The new segment will not have manned toll booths, so motorists are encouraged to purchase an EZ Tag sticker.

So, how big is the Grand Parkway?

Kenneth Shirley, TxDOT’s project manager for the Grand Parkway, provided some astonishing facts to guests who took part in a bus tour prior to the grand opening ceremony.

“This particular section is 54 miles long and goes from Montgomery, through a clip-shape of Harris County, into Liberty County, then Chambers County and on across Cedar Bayou, and then back into Harris County,” he said. “We cross two [TxDOT] districts, four Area offices, five maintenance sections and four counties. We cover quite a bit of ground. In that section, we have 77 bridges.”

As portions of the new segments were built in “pretty flat spots,” Shirley said about 9.5 million cubic yards of embankment was needed. To put that into perspective, he said to imagine a 3-foot by 3-foot wide box that is 3-feet deep, essentially a cubic yard.

“Now line them up and what do you get? Five thousand, four hundred miles. That’s a roundtrip from Los Angeles to New York City,” Shirley said.

The project also contains 3.5 million linear feet of wick drain that deals with the settlement of embankments, 25 million pounds of rebar, 650,000 cubic yards of concrete, 1.3 million square feet of mechanically-stabilized earth and 2.3 million square yards of concrete pavement. The longest bridge along the newly-opened segments is Bridge 8, measuring in at 6,250 feet in length.

Because a lot of the new growth happening in the Houston area will be along this route, Shirley said TxDOT has included plans for future thoroughfares in the Grand Parkway’s construction.

“There is one section in Montgomery County where we built in a drainage system but not the intersection. It’s a pass-through for right now and is built where all we have to do is put in the base, asphalt and concrete. It will have to wait on the development that will come,” he said.

Borrowing a quote from the movie “Field of Dreams,” Shirley said, “‘Build it and they will come.’ They are already coming. They are here. If you go south of I-10, you can’t bat an eye without seeing all the warehouses going in.”

Union Pacific also is anticipating the growth that will be spurred along the Grand Parkway, Shirley said, and plans to add more rail lines where railcars carrying goods can be stored in transit.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I encourage everyone to take a drive on the southwest quadrant of the Grand Parkway. Take Beltway 8 or 610 to US 90, then south on the Grand Parkway as far as it will take you.

    Check out the growth. In my opinion, it’s hideous. It’s nothing but service stations, convenience stores, fast food, and strip shopping, one after another. Of course, it’s coupled with new housing developments and some light industry. It’s a modern American miracle of a cash register on the ground. But it is as unplanned and as random and chaotic as anything in Houston. Is that what we want and Liberty County?

    Well, it’s too late to ask that question. Our flatlands of rice fields and pastures on this east side of the Grand Parkway will soon look like the southwest quadrant. However, there is still time to protect and promote our most important resource, our historical heritage. There is also time to develop an important new resource, bicycle trails connecting Liberty County with greater Houston and Beaumont such that rides from San Antonio to New Orleans, already common annually with multiple training rides, can increase exposure to our communities and correspondingly increase tourism and revenue supported by our heritage and support in our communities and very positive ways.

    But we’d better not wait too long. We are running out of time. New development is here whether we want it or not. Already, US 90 through Dayton and Liberty, especially Liberty, are some of the most forgettable and, sorry to say, ugliest of any stretch in the state. We can do better than that. We must.

    Or, the old rubric, attributed to John Wayne after visiting in the 1950s, will apply: “If this is Liberty, give me death.“

  2. Took it from New Caney to Baytown. Most of it is two lane highway devided by double yellow center stripe ( no passing). I was stuck behind a dirt hauling semi going 55 in a 70. It added 22 minutes on my normal 1hr & 5 minutes to my commute. First and last time, not worth the time and money.

  3. That is so stupid to build a high speed highway separated with “ double yellow lines “. I see fatal accidents in the future of this highway.. Only in Texas engineering at it’s worst. Sorry to say that but it’s true.

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