Fifth Ward Residents Oppose Houston's Interstate Expansion

The downtown freeway expansion will displace thousands of housed and unhoused residents and hundreds of small businesses.

January 13, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Downtown Houston

VanHart / Shutterstock

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is planning an expansion of Interstate 45 in downtown Houston, causing concern among residents and people experiencing homelessness who live in the path of the proposed road expansion, writes Schaefer Edwards in the Houston Press.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project calls for the demolition and displacement of close to 1,000 apartment units, 160 single-family homes, and hundreds of small businesses in the Fifth Ward, in addition to the patch of land where many unhoused people take shelter. The $7 billion road project would add traffic lanes, remove the Pierce Elevated section of the interstate, and bury a portion of the highway in East Downtown.

Local activists that oppose the project contend that the benefits of the expansion don't outweigh the damages it will cause to the surrounding neighborhood and businesses. Groups like Stop TxDOT I-45 and LINK Houston have expressed their resistance for the project for years, claiming that community input has done little to sway decisions about the project's proposed route and mitigations. “Typically with TxDOT and typically when it comes to highways, there’s very little landowners can do to stop the project,” Houston attorney Justin Hodge told the Houston Press. While some housed residents may receive relocation assistance, those that are homeless will suffer the most from the freeway expansion.

Despite protests from community groups, business owners, and local politicians, the project seems headed to completion. “Specifically related to the route selection, I don’t think you’ll see any significant changes at this point,” said Hodge.

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