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Shenandoah continues talks on Research Forest underpass

September 30, 2018

Shenandoah City Council on Wednesday presented updates from a meeting with The Woodlands Township Board of Directors after weeks of discussion with residents on the viability and public opinion of the road.

But some residents of Shenandoah again expressed their opposition to a Research Forest Drive underpass at Grogan’s Mill Road.

“I just feel like when the residents and citizens of Shenandoah speak, that it would be nice to have the backing of somebody,” said resident Julia Hepburn, adding that the underpass might lower property value around Grogan’s Mill Road.

According to the information from the Texas Department of Transportation and presented to the Township, the intersection sees more than 62,000 drivers a day — that number is projected to grow to more than 78,000 by 2022.

At rush hour, Mayor Ritch Wheeler added, delays can be 85 seconds long, or more.

“The point of this is that they’re trying to make this intersection as residential-friendly as possible,” Wheeler said. “So our residents are gaining something out of this and are impacted as little as possible.”

Houston-based engineering firm BGE proposed eight options for improvement to the intersection, including the $24 million underpass, a traffic circle, an overpass or a grade separation of Grogan’s Mill by 2022 in an effort to bring delays down to less than 20 seconds.

The intersection has been classified by TxDOT as the worst in The Woodlands and the second worst in Montgomery County in terms of congestion.

Important to note, Wheeler said, is that the city of Shenandoah will not contribute financially to the project — the underpass, should it materialize, will be funded in part by Montgomery County Precinct 3 and completely by the road utility district, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and TxDOT.

“This is the RUD’s money, the RUD is sponsoring this,” Wheeler said. “They get to pick where they spend it — and one of the other options was an overpass on Grogan’s Mill.”

Wheeler and council member Ron Raymaker stressed that the underpass was made possible by a unanimous vote from the then-sitting city council on the 2016 Houston-Galveston Area Council South County Mobility Plan — which included widening Grogan’s Mill Road between Woodlands Parkway and Sawdust Road and between Research Forest Drive and Vision Park Boulevard.

“I cannot believe that we voted for the South County Mobility Study and approved it on a 5-0 vote,” Wheeler said.

Included in the study — which was approved by then-council member Jean Teague and supported by then-mayor Garry Watts, both now outspoken opponents of the project — was a proposition to reduce congestion at Research Forest/ Tamina Road and I-45.

In the short term, the intersection could be improved by lengthening the eastbound turn lane onto I-45 southbound to hold more cars and adding a dedicated U-turn lane going northbound by the end of 2019, said Bleyl Engineering’s David Wind.

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