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Residents suffer from Grand Parkway growing pains

Thursday, May 31, 2007

For some, the Grand Parkway -- also known as Highway 99 -- is a way of life in Fort Bend County. But some residents say their peace and quiet will soon be replaced by the sounds of construction.

They're worried about that, as well as noise from increased traffic, and they've expressed those concerns to state and county leaders recently at a series of public meetings.

As the population of west Fort Bend County grows, so does the traffic -- and the noise it creates.

Homeowner Jack Elwood said, "It gets worse every day -- every year."

Elwood bought his home 11 years ago, when there was little in the way of development here on the west side. His property now backs up to the Grand Parkway. He worries about further expansion of the road because the Department of Transportation's plans do not include any sound barriers.

"They need to do something about it," Elwood said.

Twenty miles of Grand Parkway is scheduled for improvement, from Highway 59 all the way up to Franz Road. The new construction will mean two additional lanes in each direction and overpasses at major intersections.

County commissioner Andy Meyers, who lives close to part of the project, says the county tried, but failed to get the state to allow them more control in the road's construction -- control which he says would have included sound barriers.

"It's frustrating to us not to have that ability to do that," Meyers admitted.

This is apparently the result of a sound study done more than 20 years ago. At the time it indicated no sound barriers were necessary.

Norm Wigington with the Texas Department of Transportation, "This section of the Grand Parkway does not qualify for that."

A new environmental study is underway but officials say sound barriers would only be added if there is a major redesign of original plans.

Jack Elwood wonders if he should start saving up money to add new windows to his home to try and keep construction and increased traffic noise outside, not in.

He asked, "Do I have to do the same thing? Does everybody else have to do the same thing? It's just not fair."

The Grand Parkway expansion project is expected to begin in 2010.
(Copyright © 2007, KTRK-TV)

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