On February 4, 2021 the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP). The ROD, which TxDOT self-certified, allows the state agency to officially proceed with building the project despite significant pushback from elected officials, residents, and advocates concerned about adverse impacts of the project on communities of color along the expansion corridor.
TxDOT Houston District Engineer Eliza Paul said in an announcement that “the ROD is a necessary step in moving into the detailed design phases of project development, which is where we will have the opportunity to fully explore many of the project refinements requested since the release of the Draft EIS and subsequent public hearings.” In our statement released on February 4, LINK Houston Executive Director Oni Blair criticized TxDOT’s issuance of the ROD and refusal to address environmental justice concerns, including displacement and air quality. We are deeply concerned with this statement because “‘Refinements’ is a blatant mischaracterization of the critical changes requested by Harris County, the City of Houston, and other elected officials representing the people of the directly impacted communities.” Additionally, “TxDOT has not presented itself as a good faith partner to any of the stakeholders involved. TxDOT has failed to meaningfully address the environmental justice issues – residential displacement, loss of cultural and historical locations, and air quality – impacting the residents and businesses alongside the project.”
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. We have a long way to go to achieve results and ensure these initiatives are equitable, but we are on the right path toward building a transportation system that offers options beyond a personal vehicle. 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. We simply can no longer tolerate this.
Here is what you can do to continue pushing for a just and equitable outcome:
- Join us and our partners on February 25 for a virtual event about the NHHIP featuring elected officials
- Send a letter to Mayor Sylvester Turner urging him to withdraw his support for the project until TxDOT commits to meaningful redesign to minimize residential, business, and cultural displacement; decrease pollution, flooding, and noise impacts; and preserve greenspace.
- Speak out against the project at the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council on February 26 and ask the TPC officials to stand with thousands of people who risk losing their homes and places of employment by holding TxDOT accountable to a redesign.
- Share your concerns on social media, tagging officials and entities to help spread the word of the dangers TxDOT poses.
We will continue fighting alongside residents and partners to ensure that the NHHIP protects people, preserves homes and businesses, and improves the quality of life for all residents, particularly those living adjacent to the project corridor.
February 10, 2021