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Not everyone opposes the I-45 project

Life is a rich tapestry.

Jill Rafferty proudly acknowledges she bothers a lot of people. Better to rub them the wrong way, she reasons, than let a lack of attention wash her Independence Heights neighborhood away.

Flood control efforts, mostly overseen by Harris County, have failed over the past dozen years to keep rain out of people’s homes in heavy storms. Houston workers hardly clean up nearby land the city owns, part of which is a park set on a former water treatment plant, and trash and debris clog the slim channels along 40½ Street, Rafferty said.

What worries her, she said, is the very entities she has been pleading with are holding up potential relief by challenging a $7 billion rebuild of I-45 that, at least on paper, will give the area better drainage. The Texas Department of Transportation, she said, laid out a better case to control flooding than city and county officials have.

“Number one, they listened to me,” Rafferty said of TxDOT officials. “Number two, they had a plan to do something.”

The increasing divide over the fate of the I-45 rebuild — notably the plan to add two managed lanes in the center of the freeway from downtown Houston north to Beltway 8 that requires seizing properties and displacing low-income residents — also is putting the brakes on improvements in some of those same communities. For all the concerns of what is wrong about the project, supporters say, there also is a lot to like, such as better drainage, potential for parkland in key spots and more predictable travel times to downtown for commuters.


Concerns over whether TxDOT properly considered the project’s scope now are a matter for federal officials and the courts. The Federal Highway Administration, citing concerns raised about the project’s impact on minority communities, asked TxDOT on March 8 to pause activities, just days before Harris County filed a lawsuit saying transportation officials ignored the county’s comments on the project.

Supporters do not dispute the seismic changes the project will have on nearby residents, or even the historic levels of displacement caused by the project. The question, they said, is whether the improvements are worth it.

“These benefits vastly exceed the negatives,” said Oscar Slotboom, an advocate of adding managed lanes to I-45 and a northwest Houston resident.

Others bristle at the concerns voiced by critics who say they are representing minority and low-income groups, when many Black and Latino groups, businesses and residents want the project. Local NAACP officials and others cheered TxDOT for going to unprecedented lengths to include communities, who are not in total agreement with those who argue the project is racist or unfair to struggling families.

“There are people that come on the line that say they speak for the poor, but they have not spoken to them,” community activist and urban planner Abdul Muhammad told the Texas Transportation Commission.

For suburban drivers, the benefits are clear, supporters said, and the months of fighting leaves them further from relief.

“If the state wants to do something to make the freeway better for the entire area, why shouldn’t the city welcome that,” said Ben Darby, 48, of Spring. “If they are going to make it so people sit in less traffic, who wouldn’t celebrate that? Everything comes with trade-offs.”

See here and here for some background. I don’t doubt that there are some potential benefits from this project – the proposed bus lanes are a key aspect to Metro’s current expansion plans, for example – though “suburban drivers can get where they’re going faster” is not on my top 1,000 reasons to favor the plan. I just think the opponents have the better case right now, and while the advocates say TxDOT has listened to them, that’s not what the opponents say is their experience. People of good faith can come to different opinions about this project. For me, the benefits don’t come close to outweighing the costs. If that changes, I’ll let you know.

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  1. Flypusher says:

    “If they are going to make it so people sit in less traffic, who wouldn’t celebrate that? ”

    Let’s get real here. I’ve lived in the Houston metro area for over 35 years, so I’ve seen lots of freeway widening projects. Each time, the traffic expanded to fill the new space, and the long commutes continued. I doubt that this project would significantly reduce commute times from that of the 610-8 bypass alternative, but any traffic engineers here please give your take.

  2. Tory says:

    Opposing roadway widening because it eventually gets congested makes as much sense as opposing new airport runways because they’ll just fill up with more flights. More capacity moves more people in both cases, and that’s a public good.

  3. Kibitzer says:

    RE: “More capacity moves more people … and that’s a public good.”

    IKHO that “public good” proposition is debatable.

    More movement of physical matter, whether dead or alive, or a interactive combination thereof as in vehicular traffic, is not necessarily better.

    A lot of business travel is highly wasteful in many respects. Regular commuting likewise. Much greater productivity is achieved through Zoom and similar remote conferencing & information exchange technology. And the carbon footprint is lower too. It’s the next big transition, following the one from paper to PDF.

    Attorney travel to in-person hearings and oral appellate arguments in another city is a perfect example. COVID-19 triggered improvisations to conduct proceedings online have shown their long-time viability, while also providing room for incremental improvements such as camera angle adjustments and soft-light/diffuse visage illumination and faux courtroom backdrops. Not to mention the collateral benefits to the wider interested audience, especially with recorded versions that can viewed when convenient on-demand, depending on view scheduling priorities.

    See SC Clerk Blake Hawthorne’s Zoom 101 here: (Oral Arguments via Zoom for Lawyers)

    IKHO = In [this] Kibitzer’s Humble Opinion

    PS: Welcome *Houston Strategies* to the Kommentariat ! The usual suspects in the Kuff comment space can get tiresome. So input from a new discussant, not to mention one with blog fame of his own, is refreshing.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree with Tory here. I have my own, different version of fixing the I-45/SH59 bottleneck downtown, but all things considered, spending money on an honest to goodness infrastructure project to provide more traffic lanes is always a good thing.

    Don’t both D’s and R’s both say they want infrastructure improvements, specifically, roads and bridges? Here ya go. Here it is. This is it, and the money has already been allocated for it.


    Even if/when the roadway gets fixed and widened, you can still try to carry out your one world government, socialist dream of impoverishing Americans to keep cars and trucks off the roadway. You’ll be one of the privileged elite, driving YOUR car on empty roads to and from your weekend dacha, while passing by the slum tenements of the proles, who could no longer afford to own and maintain their cars.

    Road and bridge improvements will benefit you, whether your plan comes to fruition or not.

  5. Flypusher says:

    “Opposing roadway widening because it eventually gets congested makes as much sense as opposing new airport runways because they’ll just fill up with more flights. More capacity moves more people in both cases, and that’s a public good.”

    Except that’s not actually what I said. I dispute that it’s going to be as big of an improvement as that guy thinks.

    Also you can’t widen roadways indefinitely.

  6. Tory says:

    > Also you can’t widen roadways indefinitely.

    Correct. This is likely to be the last expansion of 45N, just like I10W and 59 have had their last expansions. It will add 4 MaX Lanes down the middle, and managing those lanes for maximum throughput – including express buses – will be the future of capacity in the corridor, at least until the flying Ubers take over…

    And thanks for the kind words Kibitzer and Bill.

  7. Manny says:

    Tory, and you know that 59 and I-10 will never be widen again how?

  8. Manny says:

    Tory, you flip the argument on its head, which what Republicans normally do. When the freeways are widened it encourages the building of subdivisions outside the city, thereby increasing the amount of traffic in those expanded freeways.

    Those Suburbans add to the air and noise pollution of those that reside within the city.

    We need to stop widening freeways and encouraging mass transportation.

  9. Manny says:

    start encouraging

  10. voter_worker says:

    Question for Tory: is there any quantification of the 8 years or so of construction delays and aggravation, and of how long it takes for the improved roadway to cancel that out and become a net positive?

  11. Tory says:

    I think even TXDoT has made statements that it won’t make sense to widen those freeways again. The cost vs. the benefit just isn’t there, nor is the land readily available. Which is why they’re shifting to managed lanes to add throughput.

    Manny makes the common mistake that believes people will move into the core if we just make traffic bad enough. Wrong. What happens is employers move out to the nice new subdivisions and school districts that most of their employees want to live in. Look at Exxon consolidating near The Woodlands. And notice how many companies are moving farther out the Energy Corridor because their employees want to live in Katy and Sugar Land. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what will happen if we can’t provide fast mobility options from these new suburbs to existing core job centers.

    Don’t know how you’d measure that voter_worker. Qualitatively, the downtown interests are solidly behind the project, so they must have done the math and decided it was worth it.

  12. Bill Daniels says:


    To answer your question of, how long will it take before the project is finished and people can benefit from it:

    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

    ~ancient Greek proverb

    China plans for the next 100 years, we plan for the next quarter, or the next election.

  13. Manny says:

    Tory, you are a liar.

    Your first statement; “just like I10W and 59 have had their last expansions.” You proved that was a lie when you followed with;

    Tory’s second statement; “I think even TXDoT has made statements that it won’t make sense to widen those freeways again.”

    Then, Tory continues with his BS by creating an assumption and stating that I made that assumption, that being, “Manny makes the common mistake that believes people will move into the core if we just make traffic bad enough.”

    Obviously, Tory was too stupid or did not care to read the link that I posted. The argument is that people will not move out, not that people will move in.

    “Urban freeways displaced communities and created air and noise pollution in downtown areas. They made it easier for suburban commuters to “zip to their suburban homes at the end of the workday, encouraging those with means to abandon the urban core,”

    So Tory, tell me how would one argue with a liar and a simpleton?

    I will try the simpleton argument, go look at the traffic between 6 and 9 in the morning, which way is the majority of the traffic heading? Try the same between 4 and 7 in the evening. Think you could manage that.

    50% of the Woodland residents commute, think they are traveling to Dallas to work? Katy the same, Sugarland and Missouri City same thing.

    So stop the lying, Tory, if you want to really argue the merits of constantly making the freeways wider.

  14. Tory says:

    Wow, that escalated quickly. Trolling and ad hominem attacks are not productive, let’s take it down a few notches. Not sure where the lying is? I agree those suburbs commute into town today because we gave them large freeways to do it. If we had not given them the freeways, I don’t think they would have stayed in town, I think they still would have gone to the suburbs and employers would have moved out to them, as there is clear evidence of them doing as the freeways get more congested (see Exxon, Anadarko, and the Energy Corridor).

  15. voter_worker says:

    Bill, that’s a proverb we can both agree on, and it would appear that China understands the concept and we generally do not…so we may also be on the same page there as well. I asked Tory that particular question because I was simply curious if any of the project analysis addresses that issue, or not, and figured he might know. His answer satisfied my curiosity (thank you, Tory). I realize it would be mostly an order of magnitude number and of no particular relevance to whether or not to build out a project. I have planted quite a few trees, by the way!

  16. Manny says:

    So you based your argument on “I think”. Like I said why are you arguing?

    Energy Corridor is in Houston, the majority of it. Have you seen the number of cars driving in West Park Tollway?

    You don’t understand that if you make a statement that is not true that is a lie. It does not matter if you believe it to be true or not.

    Two companies that moved so what, some move out some move in.

    Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., the nation’s largest provider of dredging services, is relocating its corporate headquarters to Houston next year.

    In Texas, Houston rules the corporate relocation and expansion kingdom — and it’s second to only one other market nationwide.

    Site Selection magazine ranks Houston second among large U.S. metro areas for the number of corporate relocation and expansion projects landed in 2019. That’s up two spots from the previous year’s ranking.

    On the new list, published in the magazine’s March issue, Houston replaces Dallas-Fort Worth in the No. 2 spot among metros with at least 1 million residents, pushing DFW down to No. 3. Austin takes the No. 6 spot.

    I think Tory needs to read more and think less.

  17. Tory says:

    Those rankings are on a *metro* basis, and I suspect most are outside the core city (esp. 99/Grand Parkway, which is booming with developments). I agree the metro is currently and is likely to continue to be very healthy, mainly because of the freeway investments 😉 (like BW8 and 99). But if we let the core freeways get choked, we’ll end up with a healthy edge but deteriorating core as more and more employers move out and the tax base declines. Clogged arteries are not good for the heart.

    BTW, yes, the Energy Corridor is inside the City of Houston and is thriving. Want to know why? Because of the I10 expansion! Maybe the 45N expansion can do the same for Greenspoint?!

  18. Manny says:

    Tory, you are like Jiminy Cricket. I guess I could say that Houston is healthy business-wise because it was built on rice fields that tend to flood.

    Bet you can’t prove that the energy corridor is healthy because of I-10. You Just blowing fibs or lies as I prefer to call them.

  19. Tory says:

    You can see a clear economic and development boom that happened on the westside once the new I10 opened. Don’t the lower-income communities of color on the north side deserve the same benefits?

  20. Manny says:

    Tory, you are so full of it. Come back when you have decent supported arguments. You are a typical Republican that is full of bull and not facts.

  21. C.L. says:

    I suspect if the expansion of I-45 resulted in the removal of Tory or Bill from their homes, their position would be different.

  22. Bill Daniels says:


    I have sympathy for businesses and homeowners who will lose their property via eminent domain for the project, but I have ZERO sympathy for the freeloaders at the public housing projects who will have to relocate. Clayton Homes? Kelly Village? Any of those residents have sympathy for me and the rest of the taxpayers that pay to keep them in their government owned housing? No.


    Tory has come here, has been nothing but polite and respectful, and you just can’t help but attack Tory with the same vitriol and invective you dish out to everyone who disagrees with you in any way. Tory has a different opinion than you do. That’s kind of the whole point of Kuff’s playground, to inform on issues, and the comment section is to react to the stories, maybe provide ancillary info or different points of view.

    My point is, you owe Tory an apology for being your usual rude, unpleasant self. I won’t hold my breath waiting to see it though.

  23. Manny says:

    Bill, did I refer to him as a piece of manure or a racist? A liar, yes, because he insists on stating things that are not true.

    I don’t owe him anything, and he owes all of us an apology for making statements without merit. That is typical of your kind of people, Bill; you’ll think the world owes you all everything.

    Dump yourself in an outhouse where you belong, Bill.

    When you quit being a hater, a nazi, a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist, then and only then may I consider treating people that think like you differently.

  24. Manny says:

    Think I will forget how you referred to my son, Bill? Were you abused as a child, Bill? If you were then get some help.

  25. Manny says:

    Bill, did you notice I did not say anything about your parents?

    But I am glad to know that I live in your brain rent-free.