Westpark Tollway set to be ‘re-envisioned’: What that could mean for your commute, fees and the community

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HOUSTON – The West Park Tollway is set to be “re-envisioned,” the Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones announced on Monday, saying a study would be conducted on the roadway.

Harris County Precinct 4 said it will work with regional partners -- including Fort Bend County and METRO -- to “creatively and innovatively” prepare for future growth by “increasing transportation and capacity choices and introducing urban design best practices.”

So -- what does that actually look like?

Here’s what Harris County Toll Road Authority could see:

“(The project may) change the toll road industry (by) partnering transit and tollway so that way everyone benefits, not just one mode or the other,” Harris County Toll Road Authority Executive Director Roberto Treviño said at a news conference about the study Monday. “What’s really innovative and what I really like about this project is that, historically, a toll road, the only way to control congestion is by increasing tolls. But by partnering with Metro, partnering with Fort Bend Transit, we can innovatively add capacity by partnering with transit agencies to provide great commuter service and be creative and innovative to increase throughput capacity where people can choose a different mode but still get to their destination in a good reliable time while the toll road user also benefits.”

But we’re just in study mode, right?

Yes, according to Harris County Precinct 4.

Watch the full news conference in the video player below.

Westpark Tollway set to be ‘re-envisioned’

“This study will focus on expanding mobility capacity and options in the fastest-growing region in Texas and creating more vibrant and accessible connections between communities on both sides of the tollway,” a news release about the project said.

Who will this affect?

More than half a million people live within a mile of the 22-mile stretch of the Westpark Tollway, and demand is growing, the news release from Briones’ office noted, adding that more than 400,000 people have moved into western Harris County and Fort Bend County since 2010, and demographers project more growth by 2030.

Briones noted that the community will be its No. 1 partner in this study effort with “heavy community engagement,” that could include art projects and taking in people’s environmental concerns.

Where is the land coming from to “re-envision” the tollway?

Treviño said “the most difficult thing” in this kind of project is real estate and right of way.

“There is real estate adjacent to our existing toll road corridor that is part Metro, part Fort Bend County and that’s where we’re going get creative and take a look at how we can maximize that real estate innovatively and include all modes in this corridor,” he said. “So that way, whatever the resident chooses, whether they choose to be on a toll road portion, whether they choose to switch to a really nice transit option that we get them to their destination – employment center, health care center or activity center – in a good quality time and most importantly when they’re trying to get back to their families we give them that reliable travel time savings.”

What’s next?

The next step in the project is to seek qualified firms to do the study. Treviño said there is no set timeline and officials are “not going to rush the decision” in an effort to be thorough and inclusive to the community.

What questions do you have about this project? Let us know and we can try to get you an answer from authorities.

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