SH 146 Roadway Expansion

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is moving forward with its $200 million project to expand Texas Highway 146 in Harris County and Galveston County in order to alleviate daily traffic congestion.

TxDOT and city officials held progress meetings on November 8, 2016 and November 22, 2016. As of November 22, 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation had made initial offers on at least 45 parcels of land, and had closed on at least 4 of those parcels. Seabrook City Manager Gayle Cook stated that TxDOT is, “looking at next summer to finish those negotiations and to close on a big chunk of the remaining parcels.”

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This project will widen and restructure the road to a six to twelve lane freeway, add grade separations at major intersections, and add access roads in selected locations. A new expressway bridge will be built west of and parallel to the Seabrook-Kemah Bridge.

There are concerns that the Right-of-Way Acquisition process will displace businesses and lead them to close their doors entirely or relocate to other areas. The Seabrook Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) is working with the City of Seabrook to identify suitable property within Seabrook and accommodate business relocation.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018 and will take three to four years to complete. More details concerning the physical logistics of the project will be released closer to the construction phase.

The City of Seabrook has devoted a portion of its website to giving information about and updates on this project, available at:

http://seabrooktx.gov/index.aspx?NID=369

Please contact Luke Ellis with Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP at lellis@jmehlaw.com or (512) 215-4078 if you have any questions or would like to receive periodic updates on this project.

Update: LCRA’s Zorn to Marion Transmission Line Project

On September 16, 2016, The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas approved the Zorn-Marion project in Gudadalupe county and selected Route 10M. The Zorn-Marion project is intended to address an increase in electrical demand caused by population growth in northern Bexar County and the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin.

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After the project was approved, The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) began mailing property owners directly affected by the project Notice of PUC Approval and a copy of the Commission’s Final Order. The LCRA also began contacting the property owners in order to negotiate Right of Entry Agreements and, ultimately, begin construction of the transmission line.

You can find information and updates on the project at the PUC interchange by searching for docket number 45601 at

http://interchange.puc.texas.gov/WebApp/Interchange/application/dbapps/filings/pgSearch.asp

Please contact Luke Ellis, at Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge at lellis@jmehlaw.com or (512) 215-4078 if you have any questions or would like to receive periodic updates on this project.

El Paso Multi-Purpose Arena Project

El Paso has identified a proposed location for the El Paso Multi-Purpose Arena project, one of three Signature Projects approved as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Program. On October 18, 2016, the City of El Paso approved the Arena Land Acquisition Process. Voters approved a $180 million budget for the entire project.

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The footprint of the proposed arena is located on, “one and a half blocks from South Santa Fe Street south to Paisano, west to the alleyway before Leon Street, up the alleyway to West Overland Avenue and east to South Santa Fe Street.”

The footprint area includes a total of 22 properties, including five that are vacant or surface lots, seven that are commercial, seven that are residential, and two that are city owned.

Some preservationists have protested the location of the arena. For example, the Historical Landmark Commission, in a 6-0 vote with three abstentions taking place on November 7, 2016, recommended that the City Council reconsider the downtown arena project.  Though no buildings in the designated area are listed on any historical register, County Commissioner David Stout stated that some surveys have recommended reclassifying certain properties. Two other sites considered for the arena were behind City Hall and an area near San Jacinto Plaza.

A community meeting was held on Nov 14, 2016 at the vacant Fire Station, located at 331 S. Santa Fe Street. Additional meetings will be scheduled throughout the process in order to keep the public informed regarding the progress on the arena project and land acquisition.

City attorney Sylvia Firth stated at a press conference in October that it should take the city about a year to acquire the property in the designated area.

TxDOT Loop 360 Construction – Austin

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently released a new report recommending the gradual elimination of the 20 traffic signals on Loop 360 in Austin, Texas. TxDOT reported that Loop 360 has not substantially improved since 1982 despite the up to 80,000 vehicles that traverse the highway each day, leading to average travel times between 44 and 68 minutes when driving the 14.5 miles between South MoPac and U.S. 183.

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Two previous proposals to address the congestion failed due to lack of public support. In order to more directly engage the public, TxDOT initiated a grassroots movement leading to 11 section working group meetings, 43 stakeholder meetings, 3,6000 survey responses, and 2,085 comments.

The report culminating from that effort states that, “the greatest increase in mobility, safety, and access comes from removing traffic signals from the mainlanes.” The report consequently promotes the construction of overpasses and underpasses at all the key intersections and a flyover bridge at South MoPac (Loop 1) and U.S. 183. The report also calls for the addition of a lane on each side of the median. The estimated cost of this project would be $337 million.

In order to limit the amount of construction at any one time and minimize congestion caused by construction, TxDOT plans to use an incremental approach to construction. In the next one to four years, the TxDOT report proposes spending an estimated $20 million to add turn lanes in order to improve signal timing and make other relatively inexpensive changes.

Following review and approval of its report, TxDOT plans to continue conceptual planning and then determine the location and extent of proposed improvements. The project will require an implementation plan as well as environmental and design studies before TxDOT can move forward with construction plans and right-of-way and utility relocations.

The report can be found at:

https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/aus/sl_360/final-report.pdf

Contact Luke Ellis at Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge at lellis@jmehlaw.com or (512) 215-4078 if you have any questions or would like to receive periodic updates on this project.

High Speed Rail Update – Dallas to Houston

The Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail project being developed by Texas Central Partners is currently being reviewed by federal regulators. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is currently working to prepare the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This publication once completed will use evaluative guidelines to determine possible routing alternatives. This evaluation is based on such criteria like environmental constraints, social impact, and safety.

This controversial project has had strong opposition throughout its history. Currently, Texas Central Partners states that it is in the early stages of land acquisition, including preliminary surveying and discussions with affected landowner, and filing lawsuits against property owners for survey rights. Below, please find the most updated routing maps produced by Texas Central Partners.

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If you have any questions on this project or would like to receive periodic updates, please contact Luke Ellis at lellis@jmehlaw.com or (512) 215-4078.