Plans for major facelift of I-45 near downtown Houston

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Funding for the I-45 project hasn't been approved yet so it could still be years before TxDot breaks ground (KTRK)

TxDOT recently released its proposed plan for the largest freeway construction project Houston has seen in years.

Get ready for a major I-45 facelift -- from the addition of four managed lanes, to lifted feeder road lanes, even urban green space. The plan will help bring drivers in the suburbs into the city faster.

"We will see more and more suburban areas become more urbanized," said Dr. Kyle Shelton with Rice University.

Dr. Shelton from Rice University's Kinder Institute says these changes could accelerate development in suburban areas and influence traffic patterns in our city for decades but not only that, TxDOT's plan will also be a throwback to the past.

"Twenty years from now, the downtown buildings would obviously look a lot different, but the grid itself if this project is implemented as it's planned would look really similar to what we had in 1962," Dr. Shelton said.

That's because the new design would remove a familiar freeway landmark.

TxDOT's plan would get rid of the Pierce Elevated, and replace it with a ground-level parkway that would take you straight into downtown.

"The original gulf freeway when it came into town before the pierce was there actually fed into the local streets in a very similar way that the new 45 would," said Dr. Shelton.

Dr. Shelton and TxDOT believe the Pierce Elevated acts as a barrier and removing it will help traffic and even pedestrian flow between midtown and downtown and help connect drivers from outlying areas faster, a change that he believes will benefits everyone.

"But I think that the more Houstonians and the people in the Houston region can think about the highway at their front door being connected to the light rail here and moving everyone, then the more successful we will be at creating a mobility system that works for everybody," said Dr. Shelton.

Now, funding has not yet been approved on this project so it could still be 5 to 10 years before TxDOT even breaks ground.
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