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Residents air gripes about Grand Parkway changes

Houston Chronicle
March 17, 2001

David Gornet of the Grand Parkway Association was right when he predicted he wouldn't get a standing ovation from the overflow crowd at Spring Tabernacle Church. But he managed to draw some hearty applause Thursday night from the nearly 1,000 people who jammed the auditorium at 3131 FM 2920.

Although not opposed to the Grand Parkway, those in attendance spent most of the meeting telling Gornet their concerns about route changes under discussion. Three alternatives were suggested last year to a proposal made years ago for the parkway's northwest route. Residents said they were worried that locating the parkway along FM 2920 or Spring Stuebner -- rather than two miles north of Spring Stuebner as previously proposed -- would wreak havoc on their community life. Gornet's statement that elicited their approval was his description of a fourth alternative: Proceeding west from David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport, crossing Kuykendahl, crossing Spring Stuebner and proceeding east to Interstate 45. Although Gornet referred to the fourth alternative as a "new alignment," it was the same as the one called the "historical alignment" -- the route that has been discussed and shown on maps for years.

"This will be studied in equal detail to the other three you will not clap about," said Gornet, assistant director of the Grand Parkway Association. According to a timetable Gornet presented, the earliest that the design for the northwest section -- known as Segment F -- would be complete is August 2002. The earliest that construction would begin is November 2003, he said.

The Rev. C.G. Green of Spring Tabernacle, the meeting's moderator, said the church has started work on a $6 million complex next to its building. One of the alternative routes would pass through church property, he said. "We made plans based on 2920 being where it's at," said Green, who has been in the community 28 years. "Rerouting this greatly affects us as a church." Ken Martin, representing St. Edward's Catholic Church at 2601 Spring Stuebner, said two of the proposed alternatives would pass near St. Edward's School. "Imagine the noise, the dust," he said.

The alternative routes were suggested because the path north of Spring Stuebner would necessitate a 4,000-foot elevated bridge over a proposed Union Pacific rail yard, Gornet said. When he noted that the bridge would be costly, he was nearly drowned out by the audience's response.

"We need to make sure people know how we feel," said David Eastwood, who lives across the street from Spring Tabernacle. "I don't want my house to end up a toll booth." Skip Warren, a member of the Bridgestone Municipal Utility District board of directors, said the alternative routes would interfere with a $1.5 million renovation under way at one of the district's water plants. "Nobody consulted us," he said.

Established in 1984, the Grand Parkway is a proposed 170-mile outer loop that has raised controversy in other areas. Only 19 miles have been completed -- Section D on the west side of Houston, between the Southwest Freeway at the Brazos River and the Katy Freeway. A segment that would run from the Katy Freeway north to U.S. 290 has drawn criticism because it would pass through a prairie used by wintering birds. The Grand Parkway Association's role is to coordinate efforts to decide the route and obtain right of way. The Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have final say on the project.

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