ANDERSON – Frustration over the Texas Department of
Transportation’s (TxDOT) plans to potentially build a toll road through rural
Grimes County could lead to lawsuits being filed by fed-up property owners, although
none have been filed to date.
“There have been no legal challenges regarding this project,”
Chad Bohne, director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT’s
Bryan District, told the Southeast Texas
However, Grimes County landowner Bill Voss has indicated in
the past that he is prepared to sue the department, and several of his
neighbors have aired their concerns about the toll road project.
Voss did not respond to requests for comment.
Much of the frustration experienced by Voss and other property
owners stems from the change in the proposed route for the toll road.
Specifically, landowners were told the toll road would either not come onto
their property or would not be built at all. However, after the initial plans
were abandoned, TxDOT is considering alternate routes, which do indeed cross
the property of landowners who had previously been assured that it would not.
The department said, in response to concerns raised by
Voss and other landowners, that it never makes guarantees about a project, and
that it simply gave Voss the most up-to-date plans it had at the time.
“TxDOT has communicated with stakeholders and property
owners throughout project development to answer questions and provide the most
current information available,” Bohne said.
Grimes County property owners sent a letter to Texas
legislators and the state’s Transportation Commission. More than 100
property owners attended a public hearing in June, with a majority voicing
their objections to the toll road project.
Despite the landowners’ opposition, the project planning has
moved forward. However, some of the opposing property owners could be asked to
sell their land to the state.
“The approximate 10-mile project on new location in Grimes
County requires acquisition of private property to construct,” Bohne said.
Bohne said TxDOT has environmentally cleared the extension
of state Highway 249 from FM 1774 to state Highway 105 in Grimes County.
TxDOT’s website lists the portions of the SH 249 project
that run through Grimes County as “finalizing for construction,” including
construction of a four-lane tollway at an estimated cost of $46.1 million and a
new location of a non-freeway facility, which comes with a $100 million price
Other parts of the same project in Houston County are listed
as either under development, finalizing for construction or construction
scheduled. The Houston County portion of the project carries an estimated cost of $454.29 million.
This toll road project also comes at a time when Texas
lawmakers have expressed frustration about the costs of building toll roads in
the state and making an effort to reduce the number of toll roads, including
seeking other ways to alleviate traffic congestion in the areas where tolls are
A TxDOT final report prepared for state legislators showed
that it would cost the state $36.7 billion to pay off the debt Texas has
incurred in building toll roads across the state, up from $30 billion in a
preliminary version of the report.