November 20, 2005
Progress on I-45 expansion

After getting a promise to communicate with them better and to try to avoid taking new right-of-way, the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council has given its approval to TxDOT's plans to widen I-45.

Resistance to the expansion came mostly from residents of historic Woodland Heights and other neighborhoods near downtown, who received support from local politicians.

Opposition switched to cautious support after Texas Department of Transportation officials said they would try to avoid taking new right of way, and would consider putting four of the additional lanes on the nearby Hardy Toll Road instead of the freeway.

"It's not that we changed our mind. It's just that we got enough information to make a decision," said Jim Weston, chairman of the I-45 Coalition and a Woodland Heights resident. Interstate 45 north of downtown is called the North Freeway.

But crucial details about the eventual width and design of the revamped freeway remain to be decided by TxDOT over the next two or three years.

I'm not sure what to make of this right now. I trust the people who have been bird-dogging TxDOT - if they're OK with how things now stand, then I feel pretty comfortable with it. Obviously, there are still questions, such as what if anything will be done with the arterial roads study, and of course nothing here is set in stone. The residents have promised all along to endorse a plan that took their concerns into account, and that appears to be the case here. I look forward to hearing more details.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 20, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

As one of the bird-doggers, I will say that one of the reasons more info about this hasn't been circulated is that we are all exhausted from the effort to work with TxDOT on this plan.

We had a meeting with leaders of civic groups on November 9 to review what had been learned from TxDOT on a number of issues. Nearly everyone in attendance decided that the best course of action was to support the TxDOT approach to the next phase of the project.

I personally expect that the neighborhoods will need to get organized in advance of the next steps by TxDOT to advocate for the best possible outcome. As part of that effort, I'm sure that the I-45 Coalition leadership will circulate information about what was learned and gained during the negotiations with TxDOT.

I think this will also be of great interest to communities near other present and future TxDOT projects.

Posted by: John D. Wilson on November 21, 2005 12:05 PM