How a Freeway Widening Project Will Reshape Houston

The environmental impact report for the North Houston Highway Improvement Project is still underway, after 15 years of planning, but it's not too early to imagine the consequences of this massive project.

June 6, 2019, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


William Fulton kicks off a series on a massive highway project in Houston that will widen Interstate 45 at an estimated cost of $7 to $10 billion. "Looking beyond its sheer size, the project will shape mobility and development patterns for decades to come," writes Fulton.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP, popularly referred to as "the I-45 project," has been in the works for 15 years, with the intention "[tackling] mobility problems all the way from North Houston to Midtown, south of downtown." Fulton explains the scope of the project in more detail:

On the North Side, TxDOT will widen I-45 to accommodate high-occupancy vehicle lanes and will likely expand the frontage road on both sides.

Through Downtown, the project would re-route I-45 alongside I-69 (the former Highway 59) to the east of the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) and decommission, if not remove, the Pierce Elevated, thus reconnecting Downtown and Midtown. A seven-block “cap” will cover the freeway behind the GRB, creating the possibility of a park that reconnects Downtown to EaDo. South of Downtown, TxDOT will change I-69 from elevated to depressed, connecting it to the depressed I-69 freeway through Montrose and several small caps will be constructed over the freeway near Main Street. Proposed plans can be seen in the video below. 

The Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research published Fulton's article on its blog, Urban Edge, as a first in a series of articles that will give experts a chance to weight in on the implications of the project for the city of Houston.

The second article in the series was written by Bob Eury, and describes the projects as a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.

Monday, June 3, 2019 in Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research: The Urban Edge

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