Texas County’s Lawsuit Seeks Reassessment of $7.5B I-45 Expansion

Local politicians are suing to have the project's environmental impact reassessed.

Source : Texas Department of Transportation

March 12, 2021

Author : Patty Rodriguez

Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Transportation’s $7.5 billion proposal to rebuild Interstate 45 in Houston surpassed the environmental analysis phase and entered into the design stage. 

But on Thursday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, and Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis filed a lawsuit seeking to have the project remanded back to the environmental phase.

Judge Hidalgo said that adding lanes and concrete doesn’t actually fix transportation problems but does add flooding and environmental problems which would ultimately impact homes and local businesses.

“Stop putting cars over people,” she said, adding, “Wider highways means more congestion,” she said. ”It displaces communities and businesses, particularly lower-income neighborhoods.”

Community groups have voiced concern that the project will cause displacement and adverse environmental impacts, while backers of the project say that it is necessary to reduce congestion and upgrade aging infrastructure. 

Even the Texas DOT has affirmed many of the concerns of locals, writing in their environmental impact study that “It is estimated that approximately 160 single-family residences, 433 multi-family residential units, 486 public and low-income housing multifamily units, 344 businesses, 58 billboards, five places of worship, two schools/universities, five parking business and 11 other displacements would be required. Five historic properties and two historic districts would be directly adversely affected.”

“It’s sort of a pattern TxDOT has been taking, no pun intended, but our way or the highway,” said Harrison Humphreys, a transportation activist with Air Alliance Houston told local news station KPRC 2. 

He said the DOT’s approach has been “if you want to continue to raise concerns about the displacements, about the environmental impacts, we will pull money from the region.”

Even Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has said that the $27 million set aside to re-house those displaced by the I-45 rebuild is not enough. 

Yet, TXDOT has said that moving to the design phase is critical for addressing concerns over displacement..

Susan Graham, the leader of another local activist group, STOP TxDOT I-45, said “Freeway expansions don’t go through River Oaks. They don’t go through Memorial. They go through low-income communities of color.”

According to local media outlet Click2Houston, federal authorities have asked TXDoT to pause the expansion while civil rights claims undergo investigation.

Category : Department of Transportation Disparity Studies Federal Government Investment in Infrastructure Local Government

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