Speck: Don't Widen I-45 in Houston

Jeff Speck, planning consultant and author of Walkable City, writes an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle to oppose the plan to widen the I-45 freeway in Houston.

2 minute read

September 12, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


I-45 and I-69

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

Jeff Speck writes in "the hope of helping a major metropolis to make itself better." The steps required to make that vision come true, is for the city to effectively oppose a plan proposed by the state department of transportation to spend $7 billion to $10 billion widening Interstate 45.

Speck is thoroughly opposed to the project, known officially as the North Houston Improvement project (NHHIP):

The planned expansion of I-45, as it is being perpetrated upon Houston by the Texas Department of Transportation, can be described as having significant costs and significant benefits. The costs are best understood as tremendous, and the benefits are best understood as false. 

Speck argues that such a destructive plan exists at all, and is being hastily ushered through to approval by the TxDOT should be the subject of public scrutiny, and a proper accounting. To help drive home the potential costs of the project, Speck provides a startling list:

...By TxDOT’s own admission, this expansion will destroy no less than 1,235 units of housing, home to about 5,000 people. These people may not land on their feet: The citizens I met in the Delaney Street Homes worry that TxDOT’s version of “fair market value” will not allow them to afford houses of similar quality nearby.

The expanded highway will also plow through 331 existing businesses providing almost 25,000 permanent jobs. Together, these residential and business losses are predicted to cost Houston about $135 million in forgone city property and sales taxes each year.

Those financial and economic costs pale in comparison to the human costs, according to Speck, before also tackling a laundry list of false benefits, induced demand, air quality impacts, and more. Two futures lie before Houston, according to Speck. "If I-45 is widened, it will be remembered that, in the decade prior, Houston enjoyed a brief glimpse of a better future."

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