January 24, 2005
I-45, westward ho?

The latest crazy-ass proposal for I-45 north of downtown: Move it west, where Houston Avenue is. Just say no.

First Ward leaders reacted with alarm when a Downtown Management District board member proposed rerouting a section of Interstate 45 to run along Houston Avenue, which would require eliminating some homes and businesses. It was the latest in a series of recent proposals for development or transportation projects that would affect neighborhoods north of downtown.

"We're very concerned, and it's part of that whole sweep across the north side that we're trying to track that's threatening these older neighborhoods," said David Bush, the director of programs and information for the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.


The latest flare-up is response to a proposal by Mark Cover, an executive of the Hines real estate firm who serves on the board of the Houston Downtown Management District. His idea calls for shifting a segment of Interstate 45 westward to align with Houston Avenue, opening up space for a new urban park and related development projects.

In October, the district proposed a more modest realignment of the freeway to public land near the site of the old Houston Police Station on Riesner Street. This proposal, part of a broad 20-year vision for downtown, would not affect the First Ward or other nearby neighborhoods, said Guy Hagstette, the district's planning and capital projects director.

Cover could not be reached for comment. Hagstette said Cover thought the district's proposal "wasn't bold enough," but he emphasized the district had not endorsed Cover's idea.

"This is still just in the discovery stage. This is extremely preliminary," Hagstette said.


The alarm caused by the I-45 ideas might seem premature, since the Texas Department of Transportation says its study of the freeway's northern segment does not envision any change from its current alignment. Agency spokeswoman Janelle Gbur said she could not recall a section of any Houston freeway having been moved.

Gbur said, however, said the I-45 planning process is in an early enough stage that new ideas can be considered.

"Now is the time to be engaging TxDOT in this dialogue," Gbur said. "We can entertain some different options for Interstate 45's future, but we can only build what the public will endure."

Here's my dialogue, Janelle: Hell, no!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Until someone can explain to me why the already-existing and heavily-underutilized Hardy Toll Road isn't the better solution to I-45's congestion than tearing up neighborhoods to widen that accursed freeway, I will oppose any alteration to what we've got now.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 24, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack