Four road projects in Washington County are among the top 20 in a regional plan for transportation improvements.
The Brazos Valley Council of Governments’ Regional Transportation Planning Committee has finalized its regional transportation project list that will now be presented to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Washington County’s top priority was constructing shoulders on FM 50 from Highway 105 to the Burleson County line (89.45 points).
That was No. 3 overall of 41 projects which made the list.
Ranking No. 8 was reconfiguring the U.S. 290-Highway 36 Loop cloverleaf in west Brenham (86.35 points).
That has long been an area of concern. It experienced severe congestion in 2005 when Gulf Coast residents fled from Hurricane Rita when the catastrophic storm roared toward the Houston-Galveston area.
In the aftermath of that storm, then-Gov. Rick Perry appointed a 14-member task force to look at evacuation, transportation and logistics, making recommendations on how to improve evacuation plans.
The task force published its report in February 2006, and one recommendation singled out the “one-lane section of U.S. Highway 290 at Brenham” for immediate upgrade to prevent it from creating a “severe bottleneck during an evacuation.”
Improvements, however, at that time were projected to cost $30 million-$60 million, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
The third Washington County project ranked was widening of Highway 105 to four lanes from Brenham to the Grimes County line, coming in at No. 14 (81.95 points).
The No. 19 project was reconfiguration of frontage roads along the U.S. 290 Loop from FM 389 to the Old Mill Creek bridge (76.1 points).
Washington County Judge John Brieden, a member of the transportation planning committee and one of its most vocal members, said the list was developed after much consideration.
The committee, with some 28 members, has representatives from each of the four counties in the BVCOG.
“We took almost two years of very intense discussions with a cross section of people on that committee,” said Brieden. It was a pretty intense conversation back and forth.”
The committee used a number of criteria to rank proposed projects. Initial points were given for safety, mobility, asset management, multi-modal connections and stewardship. Additional points were awarded for the number of accidents, congestion, regional connectivity, freight movement and local funding support.
“All of ours were in the top half,” said Brieden. “It was a situation where I really believe we have a good scoring system and that we’ve put forward projects that are really important and urgent to us.”
Brieden said he was “shocked” by some of the projects being proposed, including counties asking for replacement of bridges on county roads.
Washington County, he said, has been periodically replacing substandard bridges each year on its own. That has paid off — Brieden said that during widespread flooding in May, only one of the county’s bridges suffered catastrophic damage.
“Everything else out there withstood the flood,” he said. “We have been proactive in taking care of our county roads and our county bridges.”
The top project in the region was widening a bridge over the Brazos River on U.S. 79 in Robertson County. That scored 100 points. Second was safety improvements to Highway 6 in Grimes County, between Navasota and the Waller County line.
TxDOT uses these regional transportation plans to help determine which projects to fund.
Source: Brenham Banner-Press