Well when I asked her about it at the Labor Day Barbecue last Sunday, the one where we saw (and videotaped) Rick Noriega speak, she told me that she had just received an excellent report on the meeting from a Sierra Club activist who was also at the meeting. She said that it was a great summarization of the meeting.
I’ll take her word for it. So now what follows is an email message authored by Brandt Mannchen, Sierra Club activist.
I attended the Grand Parkway, Segment C, public meeting last night at the George Ranch Historical Park in Rosenberg. There were about 200 people at the public meeting. I attended and carpooled with Robin Holzer, Citizens Transporation Coalition, and Jay Crossley, Gulf Coast Institute. They made the night very enjoyable. Thank you Jay for driving!
There were some familiar faces that I recognized from environmental circles (like David Marrack and Geri) but most people were from the local area and in particular from Great Wood, Bridal Woods Estates, and Brazos Lakes Subdivisions or communities.
I was interviewed by a local Fort Bend County newspaper. In addition, the Houston Chronicle and KPRC Radio were present. There may have been other media present but I did not notice. There were large visual image boards of the preferred alternative route for Segment C on easels. It was very evident that Segment C of the Grand Parkway, in particular, goes through little but farmland, floodplain, and undeveloped land.
Gabe Johnson and Pat Henry from TxDOT were present as was David Gornet, Executive Director of the Grand Parkway Association. Both Gabe and David made presentations during the evening.
I was not aware that there would be a public speaking session at this public meeting. I thought this was going to be a show and tell with show boards and then a court reporter to take any comments. This did happen but also there was a public comment session. I do not remember a public comment session being mentioned in the public notice. But Robin, Jay, and I all signed up to speak.
The big surprise is that most of the people who attended the public meeting were opposed to the Grand Parkway or want the preferred alternative moved from near their community. In particular the communities of Great Wood, Bridal Woods Estates, and Brazos Lakes were vociferous that this proposal would harm their neighborhoods due to air, noise, safety, tall structure (aesthetic), construction, and other issues.
There were 18 total speakers and only two were totally for the Grand Parkway. There were several who did not oppose the Grand Parkway but did have significant environmental concerns. The rest of the speakers were opposed to the Grand Parkway. The phrase that paid was "No Toll, No Road". People did not like the idea of toll roads and wanted "freeways" and not toll roads.
People rejected using hurricane evacuation as a reason for building the Grand Parkway. One person brought up I-69 and said the Grand Parkway is part of that project and will bring traffic through the area to the Houston Ship Channel. Another speaker said that one of the overpasses would be built next to his home and would be 120 feet tall. Several speakers said that to relieve congestion, existing roads should be expanded (like Crabb River Road, FM 762).
I spoke about the problems of toll roads, air quality, cumulative impacts (State Highway 122 (the Fort Bend Parkway, for instance), the need to see a habitat mitigation plan now, and how the $580 million could be better spent where there were people and congestion that needed to be addressed.
Robin and Jay both spoke eloquently about how the road was not needed and was not going where people were. Jay stated that the new 2035 Regional Transportation Plan goals were not met by Segment C.
There were some elected officials present including one state representative (Steve Ogden, who was for it) and several county or city officials, all of whom remained silent.
All in all it was an amazing public meeting. If the Grand Parkway, Segment C, was played like a football game the public hearing would have been scored 40 points to 7 in favor of those who oppose the Grand Parkway. We should contact those who spoke against Segment C and work with them for long lasting political opposition to this unneeded road to nowhere.
August 31, 2007