an MOU for I-45
Hotly debated I-45 expansion project gets green light from City of Houston and TxDOT
A controversial and debated freeway expansion project now seems to be a go, thanks to a new agreement between the City of Houston and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with TxDOT regarding the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) on Monday, December 19.
Specifically, the NHHIP aims at reconstructing I-45N between downtown and the north Sam Houston Tollway, as well as segments of connecting freeways. Promised improvement areas include I-45 from Beltway 8 to I-10 and I-45 through downtown along I-10 and US 59/I-69. Portions of I-10 and US 59/I-69 will be improved as well, per TxDOT.
This new MOU between the City and TxDOT cites six key development areas:
- Housing and community cohesion
- Drainage and flood mitigation
- Reducing the NHHIP footprint during detailed design
- Transit and MaX lanes
- Park space and urban design
Inner Loopers can look forward to more pedestrian and bike trails along green space in areas such as White Oak Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, and Emancipation Trail, per the MOU. As for the "Connectivity" aspect, the MOU promises to connect communities via current streets, such as Andrews Street, Lamar Street, and McKinney Street.
Plans also call for minimizing the highway's current presence in green spaces, plus flood mitigation and the reduction of historic flood patterns.
“The path forward begins anew today,” Turner noted in a statement announcing the MOU. “As I’ve said before, the NHHIP done the right way can be a transformational and generation-level project, enhancing connectivity, increasing mobility, and significantly lowering flood and existing parks and greenspace impacts. Today’s MOU represents the commitment, ongoing collaboration and communication between county, city and state governments to meet the needs of residents and businesses within the region. It also provides resources for Houstonians to stay in their neighborhoods, as our people, our residents, are the heart of our city.”
As noted by CultureMap news partner ABC13's Jeff Ehling, this development comes after the county's lawsuit against the state over the civil rights implications of the highway. Towards that end, the MOU calls for housing assistance for displaced Houstonians, updating draining and flood mitigation, creating safe bike lanes and trails, maintaining city parks, and more.
Reacting to the MOU announcement, Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, released the following statement:
“Houston is a region committed to growth and creating opportunity, and the I-45 project accomplishes both. Improved mobility of both people and goods is essential to Houston’s long-term success, and this project moves our region forward while creating jobs, reconnecting neighborhoods, expanding greenspaces, and addressing flood mitigation. Houston has long been a region where people work together, resolve differences and accomplish great things to position all of us for a better future. This agreement signals that spirit remains alive and well in our community.”
Given the litigation and opposition to the project, TxDOT notes that it will “engage the public throughout the period of construction to ensure communities are informed about developments, congestion, transportation issues and other related matters.” The public will can also weigh in with comments throughout the life of the project to TxDOT.
“Both the Memorandum of Understanding executed with Mayor Turner, and the agreed upon terms and conditions agreed to with Harris County, which will warrant their dismissal of the lawsuit against the project, represent how staying focused on common ground and the benefits to the region in key areas of interest have provided an outcome that will enhance the I-45 NHHIP project as we move forward,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan noted in a statement.