In his State of the County address at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 7, Liberty County Judge Jay Knight shared insights into local industry and growth, upcoming and potential transportation projects, and a drainage study that will create a comprehensive drainage plan for all of Liberty County.
Since Knight took office eight years ago, Liberty County has been on a roller-coaster ride of rapid growth and challenges. In a span of just eight years, the county’s certified tax roll more than doubled from $4.623 billion in 2015 to an astonishing $10.811 billion in 2023.
Knight explained that when property values soar, the tax rate should naturally decrease, and that Liberty County’s ad valorem tax rate was $0.5788 per $100 valuation in 2015 and is now $0.47 cents per $100 valuation.
The additional rooftops in Liberty County – much of which comes from the Colony Ridge community south of Plum, but also housing developments in the Dayton, Cleveland and Liberty areas – has added revenue to the county, but with development has also come the need for additional infrastructure and transportation solutions.
Addressing a mostly south Liberty County audience at the luncheon, Knight, who is also the chair-elect for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, highlighted transportation projects coming to the Dayton area. Knight explained the much-needed railroad overpass in Dayton should be going out for contracts in May 2024. Once a contractor is selected and construction gets underway, the $35 million state-funded project should take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete.
“There’s another project ongoing at FM 1413 at US 90. That’s going to be another overpass with a grade separation,” Knight said. “Another project we’re looking at right now, we’re trying to get it to move along as quickly as possible, is the transportation issue that’s been in Dayton for years, actually 100 years, because that railroad was built in 1920, and this is 2023, so 101 years now. It goes all the way to Baytown. When you get to 1413, there’s another spot there at-grade crossing. So my question to Union Pacific was, is your anticipation of building another track coming out of the rail yard area?”
Knight said Union Pacific representatives confirmed there are plans to add a second track in the next 5-10 years. These north-south tracks will ultimately connect to industrial parks near the county line and the Grand Parkway.
Knight said the County is working with the developers of the River Ranch Subdivision south of Dayton along SH 146 to create a River Ranch Parkway that will connect SH 146 to FM 1409 South, creating a bypass around Dayton. The goal is to eventually continue the River Ranch Parkway across the Trinity River and connect to FM 563 south of Liberty.
Judge Knight also underscored the need for state lawmakers to amend development law to help counties manage rapid growth more effectively. The current development law tends to favor developers, leaving county officials with limited means to slow growth and catch up with infrastructure.
“There are more big developments coming our direction. It’s not an issue of controlling what’s coming. It’s about managing what’s coming. There are laws that are making that more difficult,” he told Bluebonnet News after the luncheon.