The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) on August 31 approved the 2022 Unified Transportation Program (UTP), deciding to include the controversial North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) as proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The approval comes following a month-long, flawed public engagement process during which the TTC and TxDOT offered a ‘yes or no’ option for the NHHIP as proposed, emphatically demonstrating the state’s unwillingness to work with Houston officials, residents, and business owners on a better design.
TTC Chair J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. reminded the audience that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) halted the project while federal investigators explore potential Civil Rights violations. Bugg explicitly called on supporters of TxDOT’s as proposed design to communicate their support to the FHWA and stated that the TTC plans to revisit the NHHIP in 90 days. According to the FHWA’s June 2021 letter, the federal government is conducting an off-cycle, early audit of the state’s ability to self-certify National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental reviews. The audit is separate from the Civil Rights investigation and should signal to the TTC and TxDOT that ‘business as usual’ must change. The TTC made no mention of the audit of the state’s environmental authority.
The ‘yes or no’ Survey Monkey poll shows 5,000+ responses in favor of keeping the project and 2,000+ in favor of removing the project. The state just released the survey data and we took a closer look.
Continuing to call out the TTC and TxDOT on this sham of a public engagement process is important. The City of Houston and Harris County did not respond to the UTP question on the NHHIP – intentionally. It is a shame TxDOT continues to obstinately proceed without support from local officials with direct jurisdiction.
Chair Bugg also said on Tuesday that Mayor Turner now supports the project. According to the Mayor’s spokeswoman, “Nothing has changed.” The mayor continues to urge state officials to design a better project, one that reflects community needs and desires and transforms the Houston region into an equitable, climate just, 21st century city.
LINK Houston continues advocating alongside community members and stakeholders for a better project. The unjust and racist ‘business as usual’ mentality of some Texas state officials must come to an end.
LINK Houston Summary – 2022 UTP Table PDF
LINK Houston Infographic PDF
September 3, 2021