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TxDOT Faces Lawsuit from Harris County Over I-45 Plan

The lawsuit over the controversial I-45 project, which has been plagued by local opposition, calls for a new environmental review.
March 15, 2021, 6am PDT | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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Dug Begley, writing in the Houston Chronicle, continues to provide reporting on the controversial plans for Houston's Interstate 45. Despite the Texas Department of Transportation's recent steps to move forward on the project, local opposition has led to a lawsuit filed by Harris County calling for a halt to the project until a new environmental review can be conducted.

"County officials said TxDOT, even when it did recognize the hundreds of families they will displace and thousands more affected by the wider freeway, did nothing to respond to the county’s aim of staying within the current freeway footprint and developing a solution more in line with improving transit and reconnecting local streets," writes Begley. The county wants state transportation officials to "go back to the drawing board and make sure they are considering these issues."

The project also ran into trouble in March, when "the Federal Highway Administration told TxDOT to 'pause before initiating further contract solicitation,' essentially putting the project’s engineering design on hold as it investigates whether the project properly followed civil rights-era rules for displacing residents."

After a decade and a half of planning, the project still fails to meet the expectations of many residents and community groups. Oni Blair, executive director of LINKHouston, an organization that opposes the proposed design, says advocates want to see a revised plan that "prioritizes the people who live along the highway" and "avoids assumptions that wider or faster is better" when it comes to freeway redevelopment.

Additional coverage on the lawsuit is available from Paul Debenedetoo for Houston Public Media and Juan A. Lozano for the Associated Press.

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Published on Thursday, March 11, 2021 in Houston Chronicle
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