IOWA COLONY — Brazoria County leaders already are preparing for the continued growth of Southeast Texas and the county, implementing strategies to make sure roadways and infrastructure that will be needed by the infix of residents will be ready to handle them.
Guest speakers focused on those preparations Tuesday at the ninth annual Brazoria County Transportation and Infrastructure Summit luncheon at the Alvin Alumni Center.
Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director James Bass emphasized there are $20 billion in active roadway projects throughout the state. That money is stretched across numerous projects, Bass said, but the highest priority projects are funded first.
Two of those projects include improvements to a section of Highway 288 and the Grand Parkway, or the segment B loop around Houston. These improvements should help alleviate congested traffic, Bass said.
“Segment B runs from Highway 288 eastward from Alvin or into League City,” County Judge Matt Sebesta said. “We fought for it to stay on the (Unified Transportation Program). (The Texas Department of Transportation) is working on a traffic study on it right now, but I have no idea what that cost may be at this point.”
The Brazoria County section of the Highway 288 Tollway, which will extend to Highway 59 in Harris County, should be finished by the end of the year, Sebesta said. Brazoria County’s share will cost $97 million, with $18 million for the FM 518 interchange and $2 million from the Texas Department of Transportation for other improvements, Sebesta said.
The $800 million Harris County stretch is lagging the much shorter Brazoria County segment and will not be completed until next year, Sebesta said.
State officials are focused not only on building highways, but making them safer. Texas A&M Transportation Institute spokesman Tim Lomax said safety of pedestrians, cyclists and those traveling by car is key, but providing a safer environment with a growing population comes at a cost
“You can either not pay more or keep what you have,” Lomax said. “You can’t do both in a growing area.”
In addition to looking at more efficient ways to alert people of water on roadways, Lomax said the Texas Department of Transportation is looking at investing in technology to make improvements.
Infrastructure beyond roads also is pivotal to how the county will handle growth, speakers said. A proposed Allen’s Creek water reserve that would ensure residents have enough water to drink coupled with drainage projects to ensure unwanted water stays out of their homes top the list of priorities.
“How can we provide water to all the new people moving into the area?” Gulf Coast Water Authority spokesman Ivan Langford said.
The answer might be the off-channel Allen’s Creek Reservoir, which would cover 9,500 surface acres and provide 99,650 acre-feet of water, Langford said.
The reservoir would be filled by a pump station on the Brazos River and help serve the influx of new residents, he said.
Since the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and other flood events between 2015 and 2019, Brazoria County officials are working diligently on numerous drainage projects, Brazoria County Engineer Matt Hanks said.
“The county has been very cautious about approaching drainage work,” he said. “We’ve talked about mobility, we’ve talked about pavement conditions. Today, I think 90 percent of my conversations are about drainage.”
Accounting for and maintaining ditches is one of the things the county is actively pursuing, Hanks said. Additionally, cleaning out Oyster Creek and dredging the mouth of the San Bernard River are projects that will aid the county with drainage, Hanks said.
“We’re also in partnerships with several drainage districts and several cities studying the Bastrop Bayou overall,” Hanks said. “We’re looking into that and asking what can we do to help with flooding along that.”
As Brazoria County continues to grow and evolve, officials said its leaders will continually work to make it a safe space for all residents.