Driving Infrastructure in Fort Bend County
Happy New Year! As we usher in 2019, we also welcome new leadership for Fort Bend County at various levels of the County government all the way to the County Judge. Just to refresh your memory, we had elections in November of last year that resulted in a change in leadership through the awesome democratic process we are all proud of. In the context of this change, it is important that the progressive residents of Fort Bend County continue to demand the best for them and their community and that is fair given their understanding of the critical issues faced by the County. The fact is that Fort Bend County has been had good fortune to have had leadership who have been excellent stewards of the taxpayer dollars and we want to make sure that continues.
Most of us familiar with the iconic children’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?” which talks about coping positively with change. As the book’s author Spencer Johnson rightly suggests, “Movement in new direction helps find new cheese.” Therefore, we should all give our new County leadership at various levels a huge Fort Bend welcome and trust that they will act for the benefit of the Fort Bend community. At the same time, it is our responsibility as involved citizens to make sure that the focus remains on continued improvement in quality of life for Fort Bend residents. One of the key drivers for improved quality of life is improved mobility which in turn means enhanced infrastructure.
As most of us know:
- Fort Bend County continues to be one of the top ten fastest growing Counties in America. Our County population has doubled just in the last 15 years (from about 350,000 in 2000 to 700,000 in 2015). If current migration trends continue, according to new projections by researchers at the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, Fort Bend County’s population will increase by 368 percent, or more than 2.1 million people, by 2050. Increased population growth coupled with increase in employment has resulted in increased need for travel within the County and to employment centers in Harris County and City of Houston. For instance, if you live in Katy and travel to downtown or live in Rosenberg and travel to the Texas Medical Center on a weekday during rush hours, you know what I mean by “sitting in traffic” on a daily basis.
- The increased traffic demand has put tremendous stress on the existing County facilities including majority of the connecting roadways to all the major freeways in the County. Facilities maintained by the cities within Fort Bend are also experiencing frustrating levels of traffic congestion. The congestion during weekday peak hours is getting longer and our so called free-flow periods during the day are getting smaller. We not only experience congestion to and from work but now also experience while running errands, going to soccer practice on Saturdays or to church on Sundays.
The County leadership has demonstrated since at least year 2000 that we need Mobility Bonds on a frequent basis focused primarily on capital improvement projects that improve mobility. Thanks to the vision of the County leadership for the past couple of decades and the willingness of Fort Bend citizens, the County generated about $744.5 million in mobility bond dollars that have been and still being spent on improving our infrastructure. For the past 18 years, the County has embarked on multiple rounds of “deep dive” to identify the “hot spots” or so-called bottlenecks on the County roadway network. Even though the overall NEED was always much higher than what was being requested on the ballot, the County Judge and the Commissioners in-charge lowered the ASK every single time in order to ensure there is no increase in any tax or fee associated with the bond amount.
As our County continues to grow both economically as well as population wise, we must remember to keep investing in infrastructure improvements. I encourage each one of you to take the time in discussing the new leadership’s goals as they relate to infrastructure improvements in our County. As an avid supporter of economic development in the County, a driver for attracting new businesses to Fort Bend County and most importantly, a big supporter of existing businesses in the County; The Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce encourages your continued engagement in the infrastructure dialog.
For Fort Bend County to remain a vibrant and growing community that offers top notch education and excellent quality of life, it is essential that our leadership continues to drive the good work that started 18 years ago and that may well be needed for the next 18 and beyond!
– Raj Basavaraju
Raj Basavaraju is the Principal for Transcend Engineers and Planners. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and advises for the Infrastructure Planning Division and the Diversity Action Team for the Fort Bend Chamber. As the only 5-star accredited and single-county chamber in the nine-county area surrounding the Houston Metroplex, the Fort Bend Chamber provides both immediate and long-term benefits for your business and helps build momentum for our community’s future.