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December 4, 2007

Hardy Toll Road Downtown Connector Closer to Becoming a Reality

The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) and its General Engineering Consultant, Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation, in cooperation with the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department will seek Houston City Council approval for street closures along the proposed route for the Hardy connector into downtown. The vote is expected to appear on the December 5, 2007 council agenda. 

The closures are necessary to allow for construction of the Hardy Toll Road Connector into Houston's Central Business District. The project will provide a much-needed alternative to the heavily congested US-59 and I-45 arteries between northern Harris County and downtown Houston, and is anticipated to reduce traffic on those arteries by more than 35,000 vehicles per day.  HCTRA's current project design includes four lanes (two in each direction) with planned connections to US-59 and the Elysian Viaduct.

The recommended alignment of the road is mainly within the existing Houston Belt & Terminal (HB&T) railroad corridor, which requires minimal private property acquisition. Additionally, this project will include providing an overpass or underpass of the railroad tracks for Lorraine near Elysian and an overpass of the railroad tracks of Quitman near Elysian.  The Quitman intersection is the No. 1 most-needed overpass according to the Houston Chronicle's October 15 "top ten" list of overpasses needed at street-level railroad crossings.  Furthermore, other planned corridor improvements such as an overpass of the railroad tracks at Collingsworth should allow for traffic improvements at other corridor intersections such as Cavalcade near Elysian, the No. 1 most complained about location on the "top ten" list of locations that trains park on streets, according to the same Houston Chronicle article.

This project has been part of the Toll Road Authority's expansion plans for nearly two decades.  "Working with multiple agencies to deliver a large public project takes time, but recent cooperation between Harris County, the City of Houston, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the affected railroads has finally enabled this project to become reality," said director Gary Stobb.  "The region's transportation partners have worked collaboratively on this worthwhile project and this should be to everyone's benefit." 

Finalization of the street closures represents a major step which will allow the Toll Road Authority to move forward with an agreement with HB&T to relocate the rail line. "Our goal is to have traffic moving into downtown by December 31, 2011," said Stobb.  Construction on the nearly four-mile corridor is expected to begin in August 2009.

Questions on the project may be sent to hardyconnector@hctra.org.