More Concrete Coming on SH 288: 26-Mile Toll Road to Pearland

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Hey Pearland!!! You are about to either a) enter a bright new day of easy commuting to downtown Houston, or b) add to our area's smog problem via the addition of more concrete laid down for the rich to use while the less well-off suffer.

It's a matter of perspective, we guess.

State Highway 288 has become one of the stranger commuter roads in Texas with the boom in Pearland and other points south. Rush hours feature unmoving back-ups while drivers look longingly at the massive grassy median between the main lanes, wondering why the hell that property's sitting unused, not even adorned with trees or anything beyond grass.

The good news, if you've been among the "use that median" crowd, is that the Texas Department of Transportation is proposing a plan to do just that. The bad news is that they're looking to use that median for a 26-mile toll road, and TxDOT is not in the business of building any toll roads that are inexpensive for drivers to use.

The other good news, we guess, is that you will get a chance to speak out on all this -- and that includes all the people who think we've got enough highways and mass transit is the answer. (Those folks can speak out and be ignored as they usually are in Texas.)

On March 5 and 7, TxDOT is holding two public hearings on a $1.3 billion plan to improve 288 by building that toll road on the median, building overpasses at some at-grade intersections, improving connections between 288 and 610 and Beltway 8, and also improving access between 288 and the Texas Medical Center. Additional (non-toll) lanes will also be added on the road between 610 and the Beltway.

The improvements will all be between U.S. 59 and County Road 60.

That's a lot to take on, and TxDOT says its plan to begin construction by 2014 is "dependent upon available funding."

"To the degree possible, we would like to deliver as many of the improvements identified in the ultimate design as soon as possible, but funding limitations will mean that phasing the delivery of the improvements will be inevitable," said Mike Alford, TxDOT's Houston District Engineer. "That said, we still have to determine the most viable financial strategy and interim project scope to leverage any public-private partnership related funding that might be available to us."

In other words, they'll probably do the project piecemeal, and hope to get "public-private partnerships" along the way.

The hearings will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 5 at DeBakey High School for Health Professionals, 3100 Shenandoah, and on March 7 at Berry Miller Jr. High, 3301 Manvel Road, Pearland.

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