The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it is halting any acquisition of properties over the widely critiqued I-45 expansion project in Houston, according to Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis.
Also known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), the proposed $7.5 billion highway widening project would cut through downtown Houston, according to public interest advocacy group U.S. PIRG.
“Our region needs investment in transportation that provides equitable access, safe multimodal transportation choices, and creates opportunities for everyone," Commissioner Ellis said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the proposed I-45 expansion project did not fit our community’s needs. The project would have negatively impacted low-income and minority neighborhoods by destroying hundreds of homes, businesses and displacing entire communities by forcing thousands of people to relocate."
Commissioner Ellis also said that the U.S. DOT will perform an audit of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in response to the project.
In 2019, U.S. PIRG identified the NHHIP as one of the country’s "most wasteful" highway expansions. The advocacy group says the project, if allowed to move forward, would impact more than 25 miles of interstate; worsen air pollution in Houston; and displace more than 1,000 residents, businesses, places of worship, and schools.
“As one of the nation's worst highway boondoggles, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project would bring nothing but more cars and dirtier air to a city already drowning in traffic and pollution," Bay Scoggin, executive director of TexPIRG—the Texas branch of U.S. PIRG—said in a statement. "The federal government’s recognition that Texas has not done its due diligence on a project which, by TxDOT's own admission, would displace thousands of Houstonians, is a crucial next step in the years-long advocacy against the widening of I-45. Let’s take a different approach to fix our congestion problems by taking cars off the road and investing this $7 billion in public transit."
SOURCE: Office of Commissioner Rodney Ellis / U.S. PIRG