Interstate Expansion to Go Ahead in Houston

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project, stalled by a federal investigation, will now go ahead with only a few tweaks that opponents say don’t go far enough to mitigate the damage it will cause to Houston neighborhoods.

2 minute read

March 16, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of freeways and downtown Houston skyline

Trong Nguyen / Houston, Texas

Another day, another twist in Houston’s infamous Interstate 45 expansion saga. As Kea Wilson explains in Streetsblog, “Last week, the Texas Department of Transportation announced that it had reached an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to resume work on the $9-billion North Houston Highway Improvement Project, which will rebuild and expand the aging Interstate 45 and other highways throughout the Bayou City’s downtown core — and displace over a thousand residents and more than 300 businesses in predominantly BIPOC communities.”

Critics of the project are skeptical of the agency’s pledge to “evaluate the possibility of reducing the highway’s footprint where “reasonable” — which some advocates say means it’s unlikely to be reduced at all” and provide an ‘unspecified’ amount of funding for parks, bike facilities, and other local improvements.

Despite some grandstanding on the part of federal officials about the need to reevaluate our transportation system and road construction projects with equity in mind, Wilson writes that “Buttigieg and his colleagues don’t really have much of a say in whether bad highway projects go forward — because under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress guaranteed states the right to build pretty much whatever they want with the bill’s $110 billion in funding.” Steve Davis, associated vice president for transportation strategy at Transportation for America, says “Until something fundamentally changes with the program, highway expansions are going to continue to happen.” USDOT has the authority to require a calculation of induced demand, eliminate “value of time” metrics, and other ‘nudges’ toward more sustainable policies, but more changes at the state and federal levels are required to shift away from the highway expansion status quo.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Digital drawing of person holding city skyline with wifi symbols and lines indicating smart cities or data.

Cities Awarded for Data-Driven Projects

The What Cities Works Certification recognizes cities for using data to solve real problems.

June 21 - Smart Cities Dive

The Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose, California.

Faith-Based Housing Movement Grows

More churches and municipalities are saying ‘Yes in God’s Backyard.’

June 21 - Vox

Close-up of red and white BUS LANE sign painted in street lane.

Why BRT Can Benefit Cities More Than Rail

Bus rapid transit lines offer a less expensive, quicker-build alternative to rail that can bring other infrastructure improvements with it.

June 21 - Governing

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.