Wednesday, December 9, 2020
HOUSTON — On December 7 and 8, respectively, Harris County and Houston’s Mayor Turner sent letters to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in response to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, or the I-45 Expansion.
Below are statements from Harrison Humphreys, AAH Transportation Policy Advocate, in reaction to these responses:
Statement on Mayor Turner’s letter to TxDOT:
“We want to thank Mayor Turner for highlighting the importance of listening to the significant community input received on the project and for acknowledging that FEIS does not sufficiently address many of the concerns raised by the public.
“We are highly encouraged by the City’s commitment to making its support to the project conditional on the community concerns being addressed. We agree that it is critical to develop a robust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City, TxDOT and others that will ensure the FEIS cannot alone dictate the final project design. We urge the Mayor to remain firm in his commitment to not lend the City’s support to a project that doesn’t resolve each of the 40 unaddressed issues identified by the City’s own consultants. To be effective, the MOU needs to go beyond refinements and outline an actual re-design process, not just superficial mitigation actions. It must include a commitment to on-going engagement with the public and a mechanism to hold TxDOT accountable until the agency takes action to address the current shortcomings and commits to a collaborative redesign process.”
Statement on Harris County’s letter to TxDOT:
“We commend Harris County for recognizing the outcomes of the community engagement process, which identified broad support for a design that limits Right-of-Way, focuses on transit, and prioritizes equity, accessibility, and sustainability, and for acknowledging that the FEIS is not in alignment with those outcomes.
“We are pleased that Harris County is pointing out the clear deficiencies in the methodology behind the project, in particular how no alternatives without new lanes were never meaningfully considered by TxDOT in the first place. We also want to thank the County for naming equity as a goal in itself and for raising concerns about the removal of language on disproportionate impacts on low-income communities of color and climate change from the FEIS. These issues must be incorporated back into the document.
“We second the County’s request that TxDOT issue a supplemental FEIS to address the many inaccuracies and deficiencies that make the FEIS legally insufficient under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”