– Chamber luncheon focuses on transportation experts –
Lake Houston’s dynamic economy is fueled by mobility – planes, ports and pathways.
Three visionary speakers at the Lake Houston Chamber’s annual Transportation Outlook Luncheon outlined what Lake Houston can expect.
Bryan Ruth with McCord Development was interested in “walkability” while Jason McLemore with the Houston Airport System focused on how the airport system is delivering the world to Houston, and Shane Williams with Port Houston centered on the large number of containers coming into the port that contribute to Lake Houston’s economic success.
“Walkability gets left out when we talk about transportation,” Ruth said. “Fortunately, we have county commissioners who are focused on lakes, parks and trails that make a locale a wonderful place to live.”
Ruth, a civil engineer and developer for McCord Development, said Precinct 1’s new commissioner, Rodney Ellis, has put all projects on hold as he commissions a mobility study that will include a focus on trails. Ruth also cited Precinct 2’s Atascocita Trails Project study, also focusing on walkability.
“It takes an incredible effort to update transportation in Lake Houston,” Ruth said, “because of the many city and county entities involved.”
Among the many projects that will improve mobility in Lake Houston that Ruth cited were the widening of Timber Forest, Woodland Hills and Lockwood roads in Atascocita, the Townsen expansion in Humble and the Northpark improvement in Kingwood.
“Our biggest project, though, is the FM 1960 undertaking that will create six lanes plus turning lanes from Lee Road all the way to the lake and will include an overpass at West Lake Houston,” said Ruth, who also is chair of the Lake Houston Chamber’s Transportation Committee.
The future of transportation, however, is less clear, according to Ruth.
“Uber, autonomous cars, high-speed rail, the hyperloop. These all will eventually impact how we drive, whether we drive, how many parking spaces we’ll need, how many roads we’ll need,” Ruth said.
McLemore, deputy assistant director of the office of business opportunity, listed the numerous projects at Harris County’s three airports – $40 million in improvements just for Ellington Field, a new Terminal D for international flights at Bush Intercontinental, and five new terminals plus a terminal for expansion at Hobby, for example.
“I encourage you to contact me if you have a business or offer professional services that you think would be beneficial to the Houston Airport System,” said McLemore. His responsibilities include facilitating and promoting the utilization of certified disadvantaged minority, women and small businesses in the airport’s professional services, construction, purchasing and concession contracts.
“Over the next two years, we’ll be taking bids on restaurants and other vendors,” McLemore said. “Let me know if you have a service we can use.”
“We’ve changed our name,” Williams told chamber members. “We’re now called Port Houston but we’re still the number one foreign trade zone in the United States.”
A foreign trade zone is an area in the United States where taxes on commercial merchandise are delayed or reduced to make the goods more competitive.
Williams, foreign trade zone administrator for Port Houston, empathized with Lake Houston drivers who contend with Houston’s heavy truck traffic ... “but remember, that’s how we get those goods to your favorite stores once they arrive at the port.”
Port officials are still unsure how much the expansion of the Panama Canal will have on Port Houston.
“Those bigger locks at the canal allow larger ships from Asia through and allow ship traffic to flow through faster as they head to Houston,” said Williams. “Because of our port improvements, we’ll be able to handle double the number of containers.” He oversees the 31 free trade zone sites and subzones in Harris, Fort Bend and Brazos counties.
Who are the top three importers into Port Houston?
“It’s not who you’d expect; it’s not oil and gas or chemical products,” said Williams. “It’s Red Bull, Heineken and Anheuser-Busch!”
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