By Lanny Griffith
HOUSTON (Covering Katy News) – The Grand Parkway, also known as State Highway 99, has been officially renamed the Mayor Bob Lanier Memorial Highway. The sign with Lanier’s name went up in Katy quite some time ago, but now all 180 miles of the roadway has been named after the former Houston mayor and more signs will be added to the roadway.
Harris County Commissioners and Transportation Commissioners signed off on the agreement in 2016 to name the most outer loop around Houston after the mayor who envisioned the roadway.
“This is a private partnership between the Lanier family, friends of Bob and TxDOT,” said longtime friend and former Houston Sports Authority’s leader Billy Burge. “The signs were paid for with private money, and TxDOT maintains them, using no tax dollars or toll fees from the public,” Burge added.
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In the 1980s, before becoming mayor of Houston, Lanier was appointed Texas Highway Commission Chair. That’s when the idea of the Grand Parkway came to him.
“Bob saw the number of motorists already jammed up on Loop 610, and while the Sam Houston Tollway was just beginning, he realized Houston and Harris County were going to need a third loop,” said his wife Elyse. “He was a real visionary when it came to infrastructure and transportation.”
A dozen signs are scattered across the Lanier Parkway. At least one is in Katy area near the end of the I-10 flyover bridge on the southbound side of the Grand Parkway. More signs will be added as construction continues through Baytown, Clear Lake, Pearland and Sugarland.
“Bob would be humbled by such a grand gesture from the transportation community in naming the parkway after him, but his crown jewel will always be the Fred Hartman Bridge, both for its structure and for who the bridge is named after,” Elyse said.
Fred Hartman was his boss at the Baytown Sun. “Bob loved that man,” she added.
“Any time you take a young man from Pelly, Texas, and he lands a job at a big newspaper like the Baytown Sun, then goes on to earn a law degree and become mayor of the fourth largest city in America, you know you’ve got a winner. So proud of him,” she said.
“I checked the Houston TranStar map, and when you place your icon over Highway 99, Lanier’s name pops up on the screen. We are reaching out to Waze and Google and other navigational sites to bring them in on the name change,” said Burge.
The man known as Mayor Bob died in 2014.