I-45 project in limbo after U.S. Department of Transportation halts property acquisition

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Thursday, June 24, 2021
Future of I-45 project uncertain as feds halt property buyouts
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The massive plan includes moving the I-45 downtown corridor and could uproot hundreds of residents.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A multi-billion dollar project that will relocate the entire I-45 downtown corridor to a different part of the city has hit another snag.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is putting a stop to acquiring property for the the North Houston Highway Improvement Project and plans to audit the Texas Department of Transportation over the proposal, according to a statement from Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

"Unfortunately, the proposed I-45 expansion project did not fit our community's needs," Ellis said. "The project would have negatively impacted low-income and minority neighborhoods by destroying hundreds of homes, businesses and displacing entire communities by forcing thousands of people to relocate."

There's a major update on a controversial expansion project of Interstate 45 in downtown Houston.

The project calls for I-45 to be lifted from its current route to follow U.S. 59. The freeway would flow along the east side of the Central Business District and pair up with I-10 before splitting off north to continue its current path.

Harris County sued TxDOT over the project earlier this year, claiming the agency failed to consider environmental impacts to neighborhoods and businesses.

"We have received the letter from the FHWA and are reviewing the FHWA requests," Bob Kaufman, TxDOT's director of communications and customer service said in a statement. "It's unfortunate there is an expanded delay on this project, but TxDOT remains fully committed to working with FHWA and local officials on an appropriate path forward....advance. This FHWA action indefinitely suspends key steps for this project."

RELATED: Moving I-45 to other side of downtown being called 1 of nation's most wasteful projects

TxDOT and Houston city officials said in 2019 the plan would get people out of single cars, improve quality of life, and even decrease freeway crashes by 30%, but several groups disagreed.

TxDOT officials have said in the past they've worked with the public on its plans, but Ellis said Wednesday that the state agency was unwilling to work with Harris County to address concerns about the project.

SEE ALSO: Houston homeowners continue fight against TxDOT's I-45 expansion project

According to TxDOT's environmental impact statement, the project as currently designed would displace 160 single-family homes, 433 multifamily residential units, 486 public and low-income housing units, 344 businesses, five places of worship and two schools.