Transportation Policy Council (TPC)
Houston-Galveston Area Council
3555 Timmons Lane, Suite #100
Houston, TX 77027
Dear Chair Clark and Members of the Transportation Policy Council,
I am writing on behalf of LINK Houston, a non-profit organization that advocates for equity in transportation. I am specifically writing to provide public comment on the TPC’s April 24 agenda item #6 “Update on the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.”
We appreciate the Mayor Sylvester Turner’s efforts to re-envision the highway project as an opportunity to correct historic issues and improve communities, such as by increasing mobility access for people (not just cars), addressing safety concerns for all road users, reducing displacement of families, and keeping within existing right-of-way. Addressing these issues is important. Otherwise, the NHHIP will result in significant, adverse impacts on low-income communities and communities of color, as repeatedly noted by the Texas Department of Transportation’s 2017 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and subsequent technical reports.
We understand item #6 is not an action item. We comment today to remind TPC of our concerns about NHHIP and other similar projects. We offer four key points.
First, we urge the TPC to remain focused on counting and moving people and freight, not cars and trucks. For example, max lanes for transit and carpools in the center of I-45 will expand mobility for people and provide a genuine alternative to driving alone.
Second, we urge TPC to hold TxDOT and partners accountable for identifying and implementing community-supported solutions. The City of Houston’s vision reflects significant community input, and, if incorporated into plans and designs as outlined, will enable TxDOT to avoid some impacts altogether and to genuinely mitigate other impacts, such as residential and commercial displacement, local and regional flooding, and historic and cultural preservation.
Third, the City of Houston representatives will articulate the Mayor’s vision for the city and the infrastructure serving the city and the region. Last year in July, during the vote on the $100 million for Segment 2 of the NHHIP, several TPC members stated that they would align their votes with City of Houston leadership.
Fourth, there’s still time to do the right thing. We urge TXDOT to delay the Final Environmental Impact Statement to address Mayor Turner’s vision, all previous community and stakeholder engagement, and, importantly, to allow for genuine public engagement, which is not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We urge the Transportation Policy Council to consider these issues and concerns in all future votes on the NHHIP. We also urge the City of Houston to share this vision with the impacted neighborhoods that contributed to its development.
I thank you for your time, service, and careful consideration.
Oni K. Blair