COMPILED BY SHAWN ARRAJJ
Newcorporation coulddivert Harris County toll road revenue to other nonmobility projects
A new limited government corpo- ration formed by Harris County on Sept. 15 could result in surplus revenue from the Harris County Toll Road Authority going to other county needs outside of the realm of transportation and mobility. The corporation was formed following a conversation at a Sept. 15 Commissioners Court meeting about renancing the authority’s debt. As a key part of the corporation’s inception, the authority will pay the county a one-time $300 million franchise fee as well as roughly $90 million in annual franchise fees moving forward, money that will be eectively removed from the author- ity’s budget and given to the county. The court’s ve commissioners will initially serve as directors. The three Democratic members of the court who supported the motion— Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 1 and 2 Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia—said they saw value in the added exibility in how that money can now be spent. “I think in the midst of the worst health challenge in 100 years and probably the worst economic challenges since the Great Depres- sion, we can’t solve all our problems, but I think we should not handcu ourselves,” Ellis said. The motion was opposed by Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle. Cagle said he did not see a need to rush the decision on what
ocials believe is the largest nan- cial transaction in the history of the county, instead calling for a second opinion and public input. Radack said the move lacked transparency and argued money collected from toll roads should not be used to fund projects that otherwise would have to be funded by an increase in property taxes. Leaders with several local chambers were among those who called on commissioners to refrain from diverting funding away from infrastructure. “We are the fastest-growing precincts in Harris County, and to take this money away from our infrastructure will not only crumble our streets, but will hurt our busi- nesses and communities,” Cy-Fair Chamber President Leslie Martone said, referring to precincts 3 and 4. The toll road authority brought in just over $900 million in revenue in scal year 2019-20, which ended Feb. 29, according to budget docu- ments. Harris County Budget Director Dave Berry said he expects the $90 million franchise fee to make up about 10% of the toll road authority's annual revenue each year. Expenses came in at $438 million last year, meaning the total surplus was around $463 million. About $137 million was transferred to Harris County’s four precincts to use for local mobility projects. With the cre- ation of the corporation, Berry said that funding would not be decreased.
Spring Cypress Road ramps The Texas Department of Trans- portation’s reversal of the Hwy. 249 northbound entrance and exit ramps between Jones Road and Spring Cypress Road wrapped up in September with the new conguration opening the weekend of Sept. 12-13, accord- ing to TxDOT Public Information Ocer Danny Perez. The project reversed the existing entrance/ exit ramp conguration to an exit/ entrance conguration and shifted the new exit ramp to the south to eliminate the queue of vehicles that previously formed from the frontage road back to the Hwy. 249 main lanes, as Perez said previously. Timeline: April 20-Sept. 12 Cost: $2.2 million Funding source: TxDOT ONGOING PROJECT
STABLEWOOD FARMS DR.
Louetta Road extension and bridge
Construction began on schedule Sept. 14 on an extension of Louet- ta Road as a a four-lane concrete pavement section between Telge Road in Harris County Precinct 4 and Stablewood Farms Drive in Harris County Precinct 3. The project, which includes twin bridges over Little Cypress Creek and drainage improvements, is slated to be completed by March 2022 by Angel Brothers Construc- tion Co. The project will be jointly funded by precincts 3 and 4. Timeline: Sept. 14-March 2022 Cost: $8.8 million Funding sources: Harris County precincts 3 and 4
The creation of a limited government corporation to run the Harris County Toll Road Authority will allow the county to free up hundreds of millions of dollars in toll road revenue for new uses.
HCTRA REVENUE FROM2020 TOLL ROAD PAYMENTS $901M $438M $463M Expenses Surplus
$300MILLION franchise fee paid from the toll road authority to the county as a maintenance and operations expense $90MILLION to be paid in annual fees moving forward Harris County can use the money on NONMOBILITY PROJECTS
About $137M of toll road surplus revenue was transferred to Harris County’s four precincts last year for commissioners to use on local mobility projects.
ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF SEPT. 18. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT CYFNEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.
SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY BUDGET OFFICE COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
CYFAIR EDITION • OCTOBER 2020
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