TxDOT gets OK to continue limited work on I-45 expansion
Local activists say the I-45 expansion would increase pollution, worsen traffic congestion, and displace hundreds located in underserved communities. Photo by Fujio Watanabe/Houston Public Media.

After almost two years of discussion and negotiation, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is proud to announce that it has reached common ground with City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County officials, which will help advance the I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP).

“Both the Memorandum of Understanding executed with Mayor Turner, and the 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 said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “There has been a lot of work on the North Houston Highway Improvement Project over the last several years including community engagement. NHHIP can truly help Houston move towards our vision as a resilient, multimodal city that serves us all equitably.” Mayor Turner also said, “I think you have an excellent project that will move forward, that will benefit the greater good of the Houston community, Harris County, and the region.”

The three partners have reached an understanding on several project features including flood mitigation, affordable housing and congestion relief. In fact, in addition to compensating residents directly impacted, TxDOT will provide $30 million in financial assistance for affordable housing in adjacent neighborhoods.

“If we can make this project better for one family, even one person in one of these underserved neighborhoods, then I am going to do that. What is important about this agreement is it establishes a tenor of collaboration moving forward. This is a big project,” said Christian Menefee, Harris County Attorney.

“This agreement is reflective of so many coming together from different points of view… there were different approaches to ensuring this project is better,” said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct Two. 

“We continue as leaders at the local level with our state partners and our federal partners…to make this big project even better,” said Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct One.

“Finding common ground on a number of key issues helps to refine the project and deliver win-win solutions for Houstonians as well as the Greater Houston-Galveston Metropolitan Area,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Brandye Hendrickson said.

The NHHIP will address critical needs including updating the highways to current design and safety standards, reducing traffic congestion, improving storm drainage, and improving hurricane evacuation routes.

TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Hendrickson added, “The agreements we are here to celebrate today help to identify our collective efforts to make sure the NHHIP is positively transformational for all involved.”

Commissioner Ryan also said that TxDOT is having productive conversations with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and is working toward a resolution with the FHWA concerning the I-45 Project.