Extra revenue collected by the Harris County Toll Road Authority will help reconnect neighborhoods that have long been bisected by the county's large roadways.
Under a plan unveiled this week and approved by county commissioners, the agency will spend $53 million connecting existing cycling, running and hiking trails and building new ones.
The plan includes 236 miles of trails for cyclists, runners and others, mostly adjacent to the massive county toll road system, primarily along the 82-mile Sam Houston Tollway that circles the city. Additionally, a network of smaller community connectors will link neighborhoods using proposed and existing trails. The links could take years to build.
The trails have the potential of eliminating some short car and truck trips, according to the plan.
More than 60 potential projects would spread across the four county precincts, with some crossing precinct lines. Toll Authority Executive Director Roberto Trevino said the projects would be prioritized based on costs, importance and other factors. Each project, he said, would be designed separately, with public meetings possible for some.
HCTRA took in more than $854 million in toll revenue annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under state law, surplus revenue — money collected that exceeds debt and operating expenses — can be applied to a variety of "transportation" projects. Trails, Trevino said, can be considered a transportation cost.