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TxDOT meeting examines alternate schemes for widening I-45 Freeway

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) presented alternatives for widening highways in Houston, during a public meeting last Thursday night, Nov. 14 at Aldine 9th grade school.

The project includes portions of I-10, US 59, and SH 288 near downtown Houston; Hardy Toll Road from north of Downtown to Beltway 8 (BW8) North and I-610 and BW 8 North between I-45 and Hardy Toll Road. And the project is divided into 3 segments:

-Segment 1: Beltway 8 to I-610

-Segment 2: I-610 to I-10

-Segment 3: Downtown Loop System

ALTERNATIVES:

Since last meeting in October of 2012, alternatives for each segment have change from 8, 15 and 10 alternatives for Segment 1, 2 and 3 respectively to only 3 alternatives for each segment.

For Segment 1, for instance, alternative #4 is a 12-lane section, which includes 8 general lanes and 4 managed lanes; and additional right-of-way would be acquired on the West side of I-45.

Alternative # 5 is the same 12-lanes (8 general and 4 managed) but this time; additional space would be acquired on the EAST side of I-45. And alternative #7 includes the 12-lanes section with 8 general-purpose lanes and 4 elevated managed lanes on a single structure at the center of the roadway and additional space on both sides of I-45 would be acquired.

A Hardy Toll alternative was discarded because it would not reduce congestion on I-45 compare to the other alternatives.

COST & IMPACT:

Officials with the TxDOT said in the report that this project could cost $1.13 billion and it would not be ready to start until 2025. However, residents and businessmen who attended the meeting looked to all alternatives to see which one will have the least impact on their properties.

Julian, a businessman who has a tax service and a car insurance company on one side of I-45 thinks that the best alternative for everybody is the elevated lanes in the center of the road because the construction “will take a smaller portion of parking lots of businesses and the other 2 alternatives will take-off more space of the business.”

“Look at Gallery Furniture, if they (TxDOT) do this alternative (acquiring space on the East side of I-45), their building would disappear,” said Julian. Nery, also a businessman, has two businesses, each one on either side of the freeway and agrees with Julian. “It would have less impact on the businesses,” said Nery, referring to the elevated lanes alternative.

With an alternative of acquiring space on one side of I-45 or the other, what would happened to Wal-mart at West Rd., to Aldine 9th grade school and Aldine ISD William A. “Bill” Smith Stadium located at 10400 North Freeway and many other car dealerships? Julian thinks that at the end the City would opt for the alternative that could cost less. “And the land of those big businesses costs a lot,” said Julian. But it is also true that “doing the elevated lanes is expensive.”

Other residents said they are worried because they have properties along the freeway and they will be affected by the project but “I also know the freeway is a total mess,” said a property owner.

“I really do not care, I’m selling my property and moving out to the country,” said a retired man. “I have some land in the country and always wanted to live there.

PRIMARY CONCERNS:

TxDOT is evaluating several criteria such as the impact on businesses and houses in the area, taxes, as well as environmental issues: noise, land use and cultural and natural resources.

The next public meeting is today, Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Jefferson Davis High School, Houston, TX. 77009 where the information will be presented again, and the public can leave feedback on reasonable alternatives for highway improvements. All alternatives presented are preliminary and subject to change.