By Suezette Griffin
The 288 Planning Meeting scheduled for Thursday night at Berry Rose School was moderately attended. Although there are obviously important issues to be considered by commuters in our area there were only four citizens who signed up to speak.
One of the commenters was a health care provider concerned about Ozone levels in Brazoria County. She read reports which showed that recently Manvel, as well as Tom Bass Park in Pearland, have registered the highest ozone levels in Texas. Dow Chemical has proposed three new plants in Brazoria County, with other companies proposing two other plants for a proposed total of five new plants in Brazoria County in the near future. Of special concern is that with the widening of the port lanes, the current daily average of trucks moving through the county on Hwy 36 and Hwy 288 is expected to grow from 800 to 4,000 with the projected production plants.
A Pearland resident spoke of the congested traffic because of insufficient feeder lanes along side 288 and the increased congestion to be expect with this project. She basically supports the project but wants to be sure consideration is made of the already clogged intersections around the Pearland Town Center area.
The other two citizens both suggested a commuter rail system instead of toll lanes, which are not to be completed until 2035, at a projected cost of $1.4B. The commuter rail system would address the ozone levels and the congestion and it seems to me that should have been looked at as a solution as opposed to more tolled lanes with the ever-present whisper in the background of 3Ps (Public-Private Partnerships).
This project is expected to begin in 2014 at S.H.59 and conclude in 2035 at CR 60. The tolls lanes are to be built in the grassy median. The first phase will see two lanes between Loop 610 and S.H. 59. Those lanes will both alternate northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon. That phase is expected to be completed in 2017. All pertinent information is available on the TXDOT website.
We may be too late to the party to question the outcome but I can’t help but wonder how extensive was the study of commuter rail as the solution to our traffic problem. Quality of life in Pearland will be severely impacted by congestion and air quality. It is time, and probably past time, we begin looking at other options.