Local officials reached an agreement for the advancement of the I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), a massive highway endeavor that is valued at more than $7 billion. Negotiations to resume the project have been ongoing for nearly two years.
(Photo courtesy of TxDOT.)
After almost two years of discussion and negotiation, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has announced that it has reached common ground with city of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County officials, which will help advance the I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP).
"The path forward begins anew today," Turner said. "As I've said before, the NHHIP, done the right way, can be a transformational and generation-level project, enhancing connectivity, increasing mobility and significantly lowering flood and existing parks and greenspace impacts. Today's [memorandum of understanding] represents the commitment, ongoing collaboration and communication between county, city and state governments to meet the needs of residents and businesses within the region. It also provides resources for Houstonians to stay in their neighborhoods, as our people, our residents, are the heart of our city."
The NHHIP will address critical needs including updating the highways to current design and safety standards, relieving traffic congestion, improving storm water drainage and improving the evacuation routes. The NHHIP will add four managed express lanes on I‐45 from downtown Houston to Beltway 8 North; reroute I‐45 to be parallel with I‐10 on the north side of downtown Houston and parallel to U.S. 59/I‐69 on the east side of downtown Houston; realign sections of I‐10 and I‐69 in the downtown area to eliminate the current roadway reverse curves that limit capacity; and depress I‐69 between I-10 and Spur 527 south of downtown to improve safety by eliminating unsafe weaving.
The purpose of the NHHIP is to implement an integrated system of transportation improvements that would:
- Bring I-45, I-10, and U.S. 59/I-69 up to current design standards to improve safety and operations;
- Manage I-45 traffic congestion in the NHHIP area through added capacity, MaX lanes, options for single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) lanes and improved operations;
- Improve mobility on I-45 between U.S. 59/I-69 and Beltway 8 North by accommodating projected population growth and latent demand in the project area;
- Provide expanded transit and carpool opportunities;
- Improve the capabilities of I-45 as an emergency evacuation route;
- Improve storm water drainage on I-45; and
- Support the projected significant increase in travel on the regional highways in the Houston-Galveston area.
The project partners have reached an understanding on several project features, including flood mitigation, affordable housing and congestion relief. In fact, in addition to compensating residents directly impacted, TxDOT will provide $30 million in financial assistance for affordable housing in adjacent neighborhoods.
"There has been a lot of work on the North Houston Highway Improvement Project over the last several years, including community engagement," Turner said. "NHHIP can truly help Houston move towards our vision as a resilient, multimodal city that serves us all equitably.
"I think you have an excellent project that will move forward, that will benefit the greater good of the Houston community, Harris County and the region," Turner added.
"Both the Memorandum of Understanding executed with Mayor Turner and the agreed upon terms and conditions agreed to with Harris County which will warrant their dismissal of the lawsuit against the project represent how staying focused on common ground and the benefits to the region in key areas of interest have provided an outcome that will enhance the I-45 NHHIP project as we move forward," Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said.
"If we can make this project better for one family, even one person in one of these underserved neighborhoods, then I am going to do that," said Christian Menefee, Harris County attorney. "What is important about this agreement is it establishes a tenor of collaboration moving forward. This is a big project."
"This agreement is reflective of so many coming together from different points of view... there were different approaches to ensuring this project is better," said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct Two.
"We continue as leaders at the local level with our state partners and our federal partners...to make this big project even better," said Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct One.
"Finding common ground on a number of key issues helps to refine the project and deliver win-win solutions for Houstonians as well as the Greater Houston-Galveston Metropolitan area," TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Brandye Hendrickson said.
"The agreements we are here to celebrate today help to identify our collective efforts to make sure the NHHIP is positively transformational for all involved," Hendrickson added.
For more information about NHHIP, visit www.ih45northandmore.com.
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