KATY (Covering Katy News) - When the Westpark Tollway is directly connected to Highway 99 northbound by two flyover ramps, one ramp will have a toll and the other will not. Years from now people may wonder why that's the case. The answer is Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers is good at making deals. Meyers won an agreement to have one of the ramps be free of charge in exchange for him making it possible to build both connector ramps at the same time.
"The Toll Road Authority did not have the money to build both ramps; that's the reason I came in to fund the west to northbound ramp," Meyers told Covering Katy News.
In doing so, Meyers won two victories. He assured that both ramps would be built at the same time, and he guaranteed that one of the two ramps will be free, without tolls.
"I'm not going to put any tax money in a project that gets tolls," Meyers said emphatically.
Both ramps will merge into one lane before they connect to Highway 99.
The ramps won't open until the Texas Department of Transportation gives the word that the Highway 99 main lane improvements are ready. The TxDOT Highway 99 project won't start for another year. The ramps will take longer to build than the TxDOT project will take to complete. So, Meyers says pre-construction work on the ramps will begin in a few weeks.
"My objective is to get it done as quickly as we can," Meyers said.
The direct connect ramp that will allow commuters to easily merge from the Westpark Tollway to Highway 99 north will be free to use with no tolls because it will be built with cash-on-hand, according to Meyers.
"Fort Bend County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority to provide the total funding, in cash, for the westbound to northbound direct connect from Westpark Tollway to SH 99," Meyers said.
Funding for the ramp will come from the local sales tax revenue from Fort Bend County Emergency Services District 100, and the County Assistance Districts 1 and 9.
"Paying in cash allows us to utilize tax money and avoid the borrowing and interest costs on the direct connect," Meyers said. "Because of this, we can now guarantee that the westbound to northbound direct connect will not be tolled."
The full $10.2 million costs of the westbound flyover will be transferred before the end of this year and pre-construction work will begin at the start of 2020.
The second flyover ramp that will connect the Westpark Tollway eastbound to Highway 99 northbound will be paid for by the Toll Road Authority. That ramp will have tolls. It will also have a price tag that's three times as much as the westbound to northbound ramp. It's more expensive because it's longer and higher than the ramp Meyers is helping to fund. It will cost about $36 million.
Earlier this year Meyers was able to get the TxDOT to agree to move up the Highway 99 widening project by several years. When this occurred, TxDOT immediately began their design on the widening and redesign of Highway 99 between FM 1093 and I-10, which includes the additional lanes, ramp reversals and the new traffic patterns for the entire six-mile stretch.
"The goal for everyone involved is to have the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority open up these direct connects simultaneously with TxDOT opening the Highway 99 northbound expansion, so the overall project completion date relies upon TxDOT's finalization," Meyers said.
The Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority will be designing/constructing both the eastbound and westbound flyovers at the same time and Meyers has been in communication with TxDOT and asked that they prioritize their improvements to the northbound side of SH 99, including the new traffic main lane.