The biggest transportation project that most of us in Houston will see in our lifetime is on the horizon. Let me tell you why this project is good for you and our city. When I became mayor, I talked about a paradigm shift in how we approach transportation and mobility issues in Houston. By working collaboratively with our key transportation partners such as the Texas Department of Transportation and METRO, we can effectively plan for long-term growth and expansion while enhancing mobility and improving bike/pedestrian safety.
The North Houston Highway Improvement Project includes reconstruction of Interstate 45 from US-59/I-69 at Spur 527 to Beltway 8 North. It is approximately 24 miles in length and will provide improved mobility along the entire route.
At its core, this project is about easing congestion as Houstonians travel through and around Houston. Wherever you look, it’s clear we are growing. How will we accommodate this growth? The Average Daily Traffic (ADT) volumes of I-45 are projected to increase along this already heavily traveled corridor by as much as 30 percent between now and the year 2040.
The road must accommodate this traffic but, instead of simply adding more concrete, the project moves us forward in a multi-modal way.
- It re-orders the traffic movement into patterns that are more logical and cause less driver confusion.
- It provides additional and improved high-``capacity lanes. These lanes are proven to encourage high occupancy vehicles and carpools to carry more people to more destinations with fewer vehicles on the road.
- It puts a significant portion of the road underground and provides the first opportunity to connect neighborhoods since the freeway was constructed in the 1970s.
- At the improved intersection with I-10, it will unify the University of Houston Downtown, eliminating the separation that has bedeviled it for decades.
Is the existing design perfect? No, but now more than ever, TxDOT is listening to Houstonians about ways to improve it. As a result of public comment, TxDOT has already begun to re-evaluate some decisions. For example, as a result of community input TxDOT reconsidered what was initially planned for the Jensen exit ramp and was able to modify the design to provide unimpeded access to Jensen Drive by relocating the ramp slightly to the west and removing impediments such as railroad and signals crossings. A number of service roads are being studied to ensure they provide bike/ped safety in addition to moving automobiles. Other design changes are in the works because Houstonians have spoken up.
For nearly a year, I have led a process that has thoughtfully proposed improvements along the downtown/midtown segments. Our team has worked side-by-side with architects and highway designers to provide significant roadway design improvements such as bridges and service roads that have integrated bike and pedestrian lanes. The project will also fix some previous design flaws that cause continued flooding of some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods.
The NHHIP is a long-term project that will take nearly a decade to complete. It’s important that Houstonians stay engaged throughout this time. For this project to succeed your input is crucial. TxDOT has hosted several public engagement meetings, but there is still time for you to voice your opinion and concerns. We need to hear from you, contact your council member, engage in the public process, attend your civic and super neighborhood association meetings, reach out to the local TxDOT district, visit the TxDOT website for more information at www.ih45northandmore.com.
The city will do its part to help ease the traffic disruptions. We will continue to work closely with TxDOT to minimize the effects of construction on our city streets. The interagency partnership utilized to create the high-capacity lanes will also serve as a catalyst to work in tandem to ensure that the disruption brought on by the TxDOT redesign will be minimized. The city will work closely with TxDOT, their contractors and TranStar to create and push out notifications and updates that allow for advance warnings of road closures and provide alternative routes during the construction process.
I’m committed to seek the best results for us and will provide you continuous, meaningful ways to contribute your good ideas. Look for opportunities to engage with the process in these areas soon. I encourage you to come out and participate during the upcoming meetings, tell us your concerns and help to transform the city we all love.
Sylvester Turner is the mayor of Houston.