Mobility and Flooding are the major issues
CROSBY – Pct. 2 County Commissioner Jack Morman spoke to the Crosby/Huffman Chamber at their monthly meeting, last Thursday, May 17th at the Stonebridge County Club. Morman reviewed all the achievements and plans for his precinct, including roads, bridges, and flooding. But he emphasized, “My top priority is flood control, flood prevention and flood protection.”
He noted that the unprecedented and historic storm dropped 50” of rain in 4 days, leading to the countywide flooding. He said that 800 or more homes were affected in the Crosby and Huffman areas.
Harris County is at work to alleviate future flooding and property damage, he said. The county is changing and updating Flood Plain regulations, with new rules about the height of buildings above the 500 year flood levels, and more accurate flood plain maps. Unfortunately he said that inside Harris County are 15 municipalities that set there own rules, and don’t have to follow the county regulations.
However, to deal correctly with the flood problem, the county is now engaged in a buy-out program. They have set the budget for this at $40 million, but the first phase has released $20 million. Many of the homes are in the lower San Jacinto River and Highlands areas, he said. Harris County Flood Control has also asked the state for an addition $240 million to accelerate the home buyout program.
The major effort to deal with flooding would come after the approval of a $2.5 billion bond issue, which the county will put up for vote on August 25th. Actually, Morman said the amount is being calculated now, and may be more or less that that figure, depending upon what is in the “package.” The county would use the money for channel widening, de-siltation projects, and construction of more detention basins. The date of the bond election, August 25, is symbolic because that is the one-year anniversary of when Hurricane Harvey stuck the area.
Some of the money would be used for buyouts, and the county estimates there are 5,500 homes eligible to be removed from the flood plains.
Also, some of the money would be used for matching funds, to get additional funds from the federal government. Morman said $500 to $700 million might be required for this, but would bring in twice that amount in federal grants.
The bond money might also be used to construct a third resevoir on the west side of Houston, a much discussed need after the flooding from Harvey that inundated so many homes in the neighborhoods below the Addicks and Barker-Cypress Reservoirs.
The other major topic that Morman covered was roads and bridges.
Of immediate interest was the widening of FM2100, in two areas. The planned new road profile would be 2 lanes in each direction with a middle turn lane, for a total of five lanes. This would be built from Magnolia in Barrett Station, to Thorn near Highlands. The other project is rebuilding FM2100 from South Diamondhead Boulevard to FM1960 in Huffman, with a similar profile. Morman indicated that land acquisition is underway for these two projects and he expects construction to start in late 2019.
Morman and his director of infrastructure, Jeremy Phillips, discussed the repaving of existing streets throughout the Highlands, Crosby, and Huffman communities. This project has been ongoing for over a year, and is referred to as BetterStreets2Neighborhoods. The total budget for this is over $8 million dollars, and is being paid for with county funds.
The Mobility project that will have the largest impact on the precinct and East Harris County, is a new bridge over the Houston Ship Channel. This is a $2 billion dollar project, that will see 4 lanes in each direction, plus shoulders for safety. Engineering is now underway on this important project, and the bridge is expected to be finished by 2022 and in operation by 2023. In addition to the bridge, highways approaching the bridge will be widened, and lanes added, to match the capacity of the bridge.