Toll lanes in the median of Texas 288 in Brazoria County — to be named the Brazoria County Expressway — are on target to be complete by the end of the year. However, commuters itching to zip along the roadway into Houston shouldn’t get their hopes up — the connecting toll lanes into Harris County won’t be done until spring or summer of 2020.

The $1.1 billion Texas 288 toll road project, which spans parts of Brazoria and Harris counties, is being constructed by two governmental entities. In Brazoria County, the county is in charge of the work; in Harris County, the project falls under the Texas Department of Transportation.

On Weather, steel delays push opening Texas 288 tollway to mid-2020

Brazoria County is set to complete its portion of toll lanes by the end of the year. However, a spokesperson for Blueridge Transportation Group, the builder of the Harris County part of the project, has said that bad weather and lack of available steel have caused the delay in the opening of that part.

For its part, Brazoria County is responsible for building four toll lanes, two in each direction, within the existing median from County Road 58 to the Brazoria/Harris County line at Clear Creek. Pulice Construction is contractor for the $97.17 million project.

“The Brazoria County Expressway project has been planned for many years for the purpose of alleviating traffic congestion,” said Sharon Trower, public information officer for Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta. “Brazoria County chose to develop its portion of the project to ensure that local control remained with the citizens of Brazoria County and their elected officials.”

Trower said the work includes three major components. The largest part is the construction of the expressway, which will be more than five miles of toll lanes, two in each direction, and of two elevated structures to connect traffic to the toll lanes. Those structures will be north of FM 518 and at the Hughes Ranch Road/Discovery Bay exit.

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The portion, which is estimated at $80 million and funded by Brazoria County, also includes overpass bridges at McHard Road, County Road 59 and FM 518 in addition to bridges at Mustang Creek, a water canal and a drainage ditch.

Segment near FM 518 intersection being widened

The second-largest portion of Brazoria County’s work is the reconstruction of main lane bridges on Texas 288 that run over the intersection with FM 518. This portion also includes the widening of FM 518 from three lanes to four from Business Center Drive to Smith Ranch Road, and the addition of turning lanes on access ramps leading to and from the main lanes of Texas 288 to FM 518.

Trower said this construction is aimed at improving traffic flow at the Texas 288/FM 518 intersection and in anticipation of additional drivers who will be using the Texas 288 toll road system once it’s completed and open.

This portion of the construction, which is expected to wrap up in the first quarter of next year, is approximately $15 million and funded through TxDOT. Right now, motorists in the area are being diverted under the interchange bridge to the eastbound lanes of Texas 288.

Visual improvements planned

Brazoria County’s third part is $2 million worth of highway and area aesthetic enhancements in the construction zones within Pearland. Trower said improvements such as landscaping with plants and trees, lighting and painting will all be implemented.

Pearland’s economic development corporation is picking up the tab, Trower said.

Sebesta told the Houston Chronicle he lamented the delay in opening the lanes on the roadway, which is marked by stop-and-go lines of commuter traffic during rush hours.

“People are ready for that relief, and we are delivering it as fast as we can on our part,” Sebesta said.

The tollway project is an arrangement in which private companies contracted with the state to build the highway. The companies will recoup their investment with the resulting toll revenues.

Sebesta said Brazoria County officials are talking to TxDOT about whether the delays on the Blueridge end entitle Brazoria to some payment of the tolls it would have generated had the state-led tollway opened on time.

The Harris County Texas 288 toll lane work began in the middle of 2016 and was initially slated to be completed last August. Theproject includes 10.3 miles of two-way toll lanes from the Brazoria/Harris County line to Interstate 59 in downtown Houston as well as large-scale additions to the Texas 288-Sam Houston Tollway intersection and total reconstruction of the Texas 288 and Loop 610 interchange.

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