Beltway 8 is a toll facility owned and operated by the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). The improved accessibility accelerated the growth of residential and commercial development in the western part of Houston.
Project Type:Beltway Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:190,107 Length (mi):2.68
Economic Distress:1.13 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):2242 Population Growth Rate (%):2.14
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.42 Market Size:1,707,419 Airport Travel Distance:24.1667 Topography:1
Region:Southwest State:TX County:County
City:Houston Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:29.857260 / -95.564030
Initial Study Date:N/A Post Constr. Study Date:1995
Constr. Start Date:1985 Constr. End Date:1988
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): N/A Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):77,651,700 Actual Cost (curr $):147,171,162
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||1679860000.00||688744000.00||2368604000.00|
|Output (in $M's)||6359520000.00||2607410000.00||8966930000.00|
The Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) is a 60-mile, limited access toll highway that forms part of an 89-mile beltway around Houston, Texas. Construction of the first 27.5 mile section in West Houston was completed in July 1990. Additional sections of the highway were built over the years, and continue to be developed today. Beltway 8 signficantly improved access to the surrounding area and accelerated growth of residential and commercial development along frontage roads and connecting areas. This first segment of the Sam Houston Tollway has become an essential component of the Harris County transportation infrastructure and generates a large share of the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) revenues. The project is responsible for an estimated 24,000 jobs.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
In 2000, the city of Houston had a population of 1.95 million in an area of 579 square miles. Houston has a concentric road pattern. The inner loop around downtown is I-610, on an approximately five mile radius. The second loop is the Beltway 8 at around a 15 mile radius, and a third loop, the Grand Parkway, is planned to be on a 25 mile radius. Connecting the circumferential highways are radial freeways such as I-45, US 59, I-10, and US 290.
The Beltway 8 loop completely encircles downtown Houston. Sixty miles of the route is a limited access toll road known as the Sam Houston Tollway and flanked by toll-free frontage roads with at-grade intersections. About eight miles of the route on the north side are a toll-free limited access highway flanked by frontage roads, and about 21 miles have only at-grade frontage roads (with no toll). This study focuses on first 27.5-mile section of the Sam Houston Tollway that was constructed on the west side of Houston, running from I-45 across I-10 to US 59 on the south.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Between 1970 and 1980, the population in Texas grew by 27 %, adding nearly 1.8 million people. In comparison, the Houston population grew by 30 %, from 1.23 million in 1970 to 1.60 million in 1980. The oil-based Houston economy peaked in March 1982. Between March 1982 and March 1987, Houston lost about 13.4 % of its total employment, a downturn attributed to the recession and declines in oil revenues and the real estate business. Employment numbers did not return to the March 1982 levels until 1990.
Houston diversified from the oil and natural gas industry to move toward economic recovery. By 2000, the Houston economy approximately 50 % of the city's economic base was in industries other than oil and gas. Houston is the home of the Texas Medical Center, the chief provider of specialized health services in the southwestern United States. Health care employment in the Houston metropolitan area grew by 39,000 employees between 1987 and 2000. The Johnson Space Center, Continental Airlines, and food distributor Sysco are all based in the Houston area. Additionally, the Port of Houston is one of the largest ports in the United States, handling 125 million tons of cargo in 1990.
Today, residential and commercial development is dispersed throughout the city of Houston, in part due to the large supply of inexpensive land and good freeway access. Large residential developments are located in the west and northeast and other clusters of residential development are located near employment centers. Upstream oil businesses (production, exploration, services) have established a major presence in west Houston near I-10 and the Sam Houston Tollway (known as the energy corridor) and downtown Houston. Downstream oil businesses (refining, petrochemicals and plastics, or services associated with engineering and construction) are frequently located near the ship channel in east Houston, and engineering and construction firms are also located along on U.S. 59 in southwest Houston. The Johnson Space Center is located in Clear Lake on I-45 southeast of Houston.
During Houston's population boom in the 1970's, residents began to locate outside of downtown along U.S. 59, I-10, U.S. 290, and I-45. By the end of the decade, congestion along the radial freeways was a substantial issue and accessibility between the radial corridors was poor. As a result, Houston's first Regional Mobility Plan was developed in 1982 to identify transportation needs, available funds, and funding shortfalls in the region.
The Regional Mobility Plan devised a system that could handle the existing and projected population and traffic growth in a reasonable, efficient manner ? toll roads. Through the Regional Mobility Plan, it became clear that additional money would be needed to construct the toll system. As a result, bonds were issued by Harris County backed by property taxes with the plan to pay them off through toll revenues. A proposal for Harris County to issue $900 million in general obligation bonds was put forth a for the purpose of constructing, maintaining, and operating toll road facilities. Voter approval was obtained in a September 1983 referendum. The 27.5 mile section of Beltway 8 in west Houston was one of three major toll facilities which were included in the proposal.
Beltway 8 was first presented in 1953 as part of the Houston City Planning Commission's Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan as an outer beltway circling the Houston Central Business District at about a 12-mile radius. The route was formally added to the State Highway Plan in 1969, when 36 miles of the roadway were completed or in the process of construction and 57 % of the right-of-way acquired. Beltway 8 was designated as part of the Federal Aid Highway System in 1970. The lack of federal and state funds for construction of the facility was apparent by 1975 which led to the creation of the Harris County Roll Road Authority. An initial feasibility study was conducted and updated in 1975 and 1977.
Construction of the first section of the Sam Houston Toll Road portion of Beltway 8 began in 1985. The 8.6 mile segment from U.S. 59 (south) to I-10 was completed in 1987 and opened in 1988. The full 27.5 mile segment was complete by 1990. This portion of Beltway 8 was originally constructed as a 3-lane toll road in each direction with 3-lane free frontage roads on both sides. Multi-level interchanges were constructed at US 59, I-10 US 290, SH 249, and I-45. The interchange with I-10 was reconstructed in 2008 as part of the I-10 freeway expansion. Currently, the 6-lane toll facility is being widened to an 8-lane facility.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Construction of the toll road has increased mobility and allowed for development along the radial freeways in west Houston. In fiscal year 1990, the HCTRA reported over 37.5 million vehicles on the Hardy Toll Road and the Sam Houston Tollway together. By 1995 this increased to approximate 119 million vehicles a year. Today, the HCTRA's Highest Traffic Area (185,000 transactions per day) is the Sam Houston Tollway between IH-10 and Westpark.
EZ Tag holders can access the initial 27.5 mile segment of the Sam Houston Tollway via 10 frontage road entrances along the segment. There are also three toll plazas located on this segment ? the Sam Houston South, Sam Houston Central, and Sam Houston North. In 2002, these three toll plazas collected a combined $124 million in revenues from 164 million vehicles. By 2008 this number reached $207 million generated from 192 million vehicles. Total system toll revenues in 2002 and 2008 were approximately $235 million and $266 million, respectively.
By signalizing major thoroughfares, the project has also improved safety in these locations. The Sam Houston Tollway has been recognized by the International Bridget, Tunnel and Turnpike Association as one of the nation's safest toll roads to drive.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
One economist estimates that about half of the growth in west Houston can be attributed to the construction of Beltway 8. The Sam Houston Tollway has allowed high speed access between numerous areas of Houston. However, there is a sense that construction of the Sam Houston Tollway has accelerated economic growth along its frontage roads and radial freeways, but has not brought in new types of industries. Commercial office towers have located near previous office developments in the energy corridor, and distribution and minor manufacturing continues to locate near the interchange of Beltway 8 and US 290.
The total population of Houston grew at a rate less than 1 % annually between 1980 and 1990, increasing to 1.8 % annually between 1990 and 2000. In west Houston, the annual population growth from 1990 to 2000 was about 3.4 %, falling to 1.8 % between 2000 and 2005. In West Houston, employment grew at an annual rate of 2.5 % from 1990 to 2000, increasing to 4.2 % between 2000 and 2005. In addition to impacts on West Houston, some in the southwest areas like Pearland, Missouri City, and Stafford attribute some of their growth to the Sam Houston Tollway.
The Sam Houston Tollway was conceived during the oil boom years of the 1970's and early 1980's when the price of oil was rising and supplies were limited. People were moving to Houston to take advantage of the oil boom. By the time the Sam Houston Tollway West opened, the oil industry had collapsed in Houston, culminating in a crushing recession in Houston and across Texas. The recession turned into a real estate debacle, and ultimately a banking crisis occurred, and 9 out of the 10 largest bank holding companies in the region fail. Houston lost around 250,000 jobs, equivalent to one in eight jobs at that time. As a result, the Houston economy was in recovery mode from about 1987 to 1990.
Evaluation of Growth Trends and Forecasts in the Harris County Metropolitan Area, Prepared by Baron Smith, Ph.D.
Harris County Toll Road Authority at a Glance. Harris County Toll Road Authority, April 2008.
Harris County Toll Road Authority Enterprise Fund Basic Financial Statements for the Fiscal Year Ended February 28, 2006.
Harris County Toll Road Authority Enterprise Fund Basic Financial Statements for the Fiscal Year Ended February 29, 2008.
Harris County Toll Road System Comprehensive Traffic and Revenue Study, Wilbur Smith and Associates.
Houston Business A Perspective on the Houston Economy, 1982-90: When Times Were Bad in Houston. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch. June 2003.
Houston Business A Perspective on the Houston Economy, Oil and the Houston Economy Today. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch. January 2000.
Houston Business A Perspective on the Houston Economy, Houston Economy Shows Endurance and Renewed Strength. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch. October 1996.http://www.censusscope.org/us/m3360/chart_popl.html http://www.texasfreeway.com/Houston/photos/bw8/bw8_mainlanes_west.shtml http://www.hctra.org/about_project-history http://www.houstonhistory.com/decades/history5r.htm
City of Houston population based on 1980, 1990, and 2000 United State Census Data. West Houston population and employment data was provided by the West Houston Association. All rates presented are annual growth rates.
OrganizationTexas Department of Transportation Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas West Houston Association Greater Houston Partnership Harris County Toll Road Authority Dannenbaum Engineering