Statement to the Press on Impacts of the North Houston Highway Improvement Project
Presented by Oni K. Blair, Executive Director of LINK Houston on June 13, 2019
Good morning. My name is Oni Blair, and I’m the executive director of LINK Houston. LINK Houston’s mission is to advocate for a robust and equitable transportation network so that all people can reach opportunity.
Inequity is what concerns us about the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. For decades across the country and right here in Houston, highway projects have cut through African-American and Latino communities, dividing people further from services and each other, thus deepening inequities.
As TxDOT builds more roadway to accommodate cars, the communities adjacent to the proposed I-45 expansion – from Third Ward to Independence Heights to Greenspoint – feel the losses: the loss of land and history, loss of economic development opportunities, loss of 300 businesses and nearly 24,000 jobs, loss of more than 1,200 homes, loss of manageable water and drainage, and loss of safe neighborhood to neighborhood connectivity.
LINK Houston’s mobility and safety data analysis, which is part of Air Alliance Houston’s Health Impacts Assessment of the project, is alarming for people inside and outside of their cars. The Health Impacts Assessment found that the proposed highway expansion project would severely impact students and communities from the vantage point of all nine schools studied, of 26 total, within 500 feet of the existing highway. The impact is severe.
TxDOT must design highways to fit the reality of our urban environment. This means that safety for children who walk or bike to schools with attendance zones that extend on both sides of the impacted highways is critical to address in designing the highway and related streets. This means that people using the bus stops along the access or feeder roads must be able to do so safely. Every highway project must improve safety for all people moving over, under, or across the highway, as well as people traveling in their cars on the highway.
Air Alliance’s Houston’s Health Impacts Assessment is a valuable tool that the Texas Department of Transportation, Mayor Turner and City Councilmembers, and Judge Hidalgo should leverage to address the true impact of this project on people – not just businesses downtown that will reap the benefits – but the people and children who will bear the burdens of this project as currently proposed.