The I-45 Project is Moving Forward

March 8, 2023
The $9 billion project will start the design and construction phase

After the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reached an agreement, the I-45 expansion project is moving forward, according to the FHWA.

According to a statement, both agencies signed a Voluntary Resolution Agreement, which resolved the FHWA's Title VI investigation into the project and lifts the pause on it.

"This VRA takes significant steps to address project impacts to the community and provides clear enforceable timelines that will be monitored by FHWA as TxDOT proceeds with the NHHIP, including detailed design, stakeholder engagement, affordable housing initiatives, right-of-way acquisition, flood mitigation and construction activities," the statement said.

The I-45 expansion project is one of the largest construction projects in the state. It's designed to widen I-45 through downtown to Beltway 8 to address congestion. Some of it would run parallel to I-69 on the east side of downtown.

The project would also provide more pedestrian and bike trails along green spaces.

However, as of April 2022, over 1,000 homes in its path would be affected. The group Stop TxDOT I-45 opposes the project, saying it supports the voices of local businesses and families that the construct could impact.

Harris County also sued to stop the project, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit.

According to the FHWA, the actions specifically outlined under the VRA include:

  • Twice annual public meetings through design and construction
  • Mitigating displacements, relocations, housing, and other community impacts
  • Drainage improvements to reduce flooding
  • Parks, open space, trails, pedestrian and bicycle facilities
  • Community access during construction
  • Highway "footprint" reduction
  • Structural highway caps
  • Air quality mitigation
  • Meaningful access for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement after the FHWA's announcement, saying that the city is prepared to reengage TxDOT on all segments of the project.

"After years of negotiations, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project can now be the project Houston deserves it to be. A project that addresses I-45's repeated flooding while maximizing the opportunities for people to stay in their homes and neighborhoods. It is a project that helps people and goods travel through the region while encouraging people to travel between our neighborhoods without impacting them. A project that can help knit back together our downtown and improve the air we all breathe. I thank the many project partners and stakeholders that have brought us to the point, including FHWA, TxDOT, Harris County, METRO, and especially our residents," the mayor said.