Renowned urban planner and author Jeff Speck was in Houston for his February 27 Urban Reads talk “I-45 Meets the Walkable City.” Prior to his lecture, LINK Houston led Mr. Speck on a tour to meet with community members in the Fifth Ward, Near Northside, and Independence Heights to inform his understanding of walkability in Houston’s under resourced communities, the I-45 expansion project designs, and the project’s anticipated impact.
On the tour, Mr. Speck visited Bruce Elementary School in the Fifth Ward where close to 10% of students suffer from asthma. The principal has no choice but to use her already strained budget to bus students who live within a two-mile radius due to poor built environment factors. The danger of the route students use to walk, which crosses under the highway and rail road crossings will be exacerbated by the I-45 expansion.
Mr. Speck also met with Near Northside residents at the Leonel Castillo Community Center who worry that their neighborhood will be cut off from other areas due to the I-45 expansion. There were also concerns of increased flooding and the loss of their amazing city views and greenspace near their beloved community center.
The tour proceeded to Delaney Street homes, where Mr. Speck heard residents’ concerns about pedestrian-bicyclist connectivity risks, potential for increased high-speed traffic through neighborhood streets during construction, loss of property, and displacement of residents from affordable homes.
The tour concluded in Independence Heights, where the pastor of the Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church shared his congregation’s struggle in rebuilding the 117-year old church following Hurricane Ike, and his fear of losing the church and its connection to the historic African-American community to the Texas Department of Transportation.
During his lecture at the Kinder Institute, Mr. Speck told a crowd of several hundred people that they need to organize to fight the proposed project and urge TxDOT to come up with more sustainable solutions to improve urban mobility for one of the largest cities in the country.
LINK Houston has been a member of the Make I-45 Better Coalition since our founding, working with communities and stakeholders to help raise awareness of and influence the project. Recently, we partnered with Air Alliance Houston to help with the organization’s Health Impact Assessment of select schools in the proposed project zone. Air Alliance Houston presented the findings to Aldine and Houston ISD officials and we are planning community meetings to inform the public of the adverse health impacts identified in the study. For details on a meeting in the Fifth Ward, click here and for the meeting in the Third Ward, click here.
Please contact us if you wish to engage with the Make I-45 Better Coalition and play an important role in helping to shape Houston’s urban mobility future.