Area leaders learned about transportation planning in the decades to come in an overview of the 2040 regional transportation plan presented to the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership Sept. 18.
BayTran, as it is often referred, coordinates transportation needs in the area with its 13 member cities, which include Friendswood, Houston, La Porte, Clear Lake Shores, Webster and League City, along with Galveston and Harris counties and the Port of Houston Authority.
The plan presented Sept. 18 is “a critical document because it talks about where we are, where are we going and how we are going to get there,” said Alan Clark, director of Houston-Galveston Area Council’s metropolitan planning organization told his audience during the monthly luncheon.
“Not only are we talking about where we want to be in the future, but we are saying things like, ‘What does that look like and what are the outcomes, and how do we measure those?’ We haven’t done this as much in the regional plan in the fast as we will be in the future,” he said.
He displayed slides of the last 10 years depicting fast-growing areas such as Pearland, Katy and The Woodlands.
“I couldn’t believe this was a shot of The Woodlands in 2000 – I thought it was already developed,” he said. “It wasn’t.
“We are seeing the growth and development, that’s not a question. What we are thinking carefully about in this plan is, ‘What is the nature. What does it look like. Where is it, and what is it going to translate into as far as transportation services.”
The Houston-Galveston Area Council has estimated that 10 million will reside in BayTran’s service area by 2040, with more than 70 percent of those outside the Beltway.
Clark said these estimates are conservative.
In 2010, 65 percent of the population was outside Beltway, a number that will grow to 71 percent, he said.
The transportation plan, he said, is based on “a reasonable expectation of funds available.”
The outcome of Proposition 1, the development of toll roads and other self-financing strategies are among factors influencing funding, he said.
“We are going to develop our plan in two steps,” he said. “This fall, I’m going to ask the policy council to allow us to move forward with a plan based on the revenue we have in hand. If nothing changes, what can we do? That will allow us to develop a plan that preserves our ability to program projects in our TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) and continue forward.”
A second phase of the plan will contain more certainly about future funding, and would allow major investments to be added.
“I know it seems strange to develop a plan this way, but I think the funding scenarios are critical. We are also going to ask our policy council to authorize our next TIP call for projects,” he said.
About $77 billion is left in the current plan, he said. While this sounds like a lot, Clark reminded the audience what transportation costs are.
“Your basic freeway interchange is a quarter of a million dollars,” he said. “Widening an existing freeway – $11 million per mile in an urban area. Farm-to-market road – $1.5 million per mile.”