During their June meeting, the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) decided to include the NHHIP as part of the annual public comment period for the Unified Transportation Program (UTP) for 2022. TTC Chair Bruce Bugg stated that based on public input, the TTC will consider removing funding for the NHHIP and the Houston region as part of the UTP. The UTP is the state’s 10-year slate of projects.
On July 9, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) opened the 30-day public comment period for the UTP, giving the public only two options to consider regarding the NHHIP: “Support maintaining project and funding as proposed or Support removing project and funding.” If the TTC and TxDOT genuinely sought public input, they would have included some form of third option, such as “Support maintaining funding but redesigning the project to better respond to community input.”
We are deeply concerned by TTC’s and TxDOT’s tactics to force the Houston region residents and leaders between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the NHHIP. State of Texas decisionmakers on this issue would have the public believe the only option is TxDOT’s present design or no project at all, which is not true. This new and flawed public comment process further demonstrates the unwillingness of the TTC and TxDOT to work with local leaders, stakeholders, and the public to develop a project that will improve mobility and connectivity, reduce climate change impacts on a region that regularly floods, and most importantly ensure equity for communities of color along the project corridor.
The Houston region has been working toward a transportation paradigm shift, including by investing in and expanding public transit through METRONext; building out the Houston Bike Plan; developing a Vision Zero Action Plan to eliminate roadway fatalities and serious injuries; and working to mitigate climate impacts through the Climate Action Plan and the Resilient Houston strategy. The NHHIP, as currently designed, does not align with any of these initiatives. In fact, through this project TxDOT perpetuates the historical injustices of highway construction toward Black and Brown communities and is currently being investigated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on Title VI Civil Rights Violations.
Instead of coming to the table and working with local leaders and residents to develop a project that considers multi-modal ways to move more people and not just cars; preserves homes and businesses; and improves the quality of life for all residents, the TTC and TxDOT are signaling to the Houston region that it is their way or no way. This is not how a government agency should engage the public on what to do with billions of taxpayer dollars. The TTC and TxDOT should be honest with the public. If they truly wanted to engage the public in this process, they should have provided a third option that supports continuing funding the NHHIP with a redesign to reflect the region’s current needs and desires.
We urge you to get involved in this process. TxDOT will accept written public comments until 4:00 p.m. August 9, 2021. You can submit your comments through the online form and provide your feedback in the text box under question number 1. You can also print a comment form and mail it to TxDOT or call (800) 687-8108 to leave a voicemail with your name and comments. Another option is to email your comment form to TxDOT at utp-publicComments@txdot.gov Additionally, you can voice your concerns during the virtual public hearing scheduled on August 2 at 3:00 p.m. For any special accommodations, call (800) 687-8108 at least 3 business days before the public hearing.
July 16, 2021