I-45 Expansion: Health Impact Assessment and Community Organizing

I-45 Expansion: Health Impact Assessment and Community Organizing

Supporting Sustainable and Equitable Transportation

TxDOT’s proposal to widen the I-45 could cost Houston in terms of air pollution, congestion, mobility, resilience, and social equity. Rethinking this project is an opportunity to demonstrate that our region is committed to moving toward more thoughtful transportation planning.

The issue

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has proposed to widen the Interstate 45. The planned expansion, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), will run from the I-45N/Beltway 8 intersection on the north side of Houston to the I-45/I-69/288 intersection just south of Midtown.

TxDOT maintains that the expansion is needed to respond to the Houston region’s projected population growth.

However, in its current design, the NHHIP could harm the public health and quality of life of the surrounding communities due to more pollution, noise, and reduced safety, among other ills. Moreover, the project is anticipated to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, causing mass displacement, destroying the social fabric of neighborhoods, and making it more difficult for people to reach economic opportunities, perpetuating the legacy of environmental injustices and related health inequities. 

By locking our region into a car-centric future, the proposed expansion will further deteriorate Houston’s already poor air quality and jeopardize the city’s ability to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the new draft Climate Action Plan.

What we’re doing

A Health Impact Assessment of the NHHIP

In spring 2018, we were funded by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation under the 500 Cities Data Challenge to conduct a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the NHHIP.

The assessment focused on potential air quality, mobility, and flooding impacts at nine priority school campuses along the I-45 corridor. The study represents eight months of examining data and engagement with stakeholders and community members to evaluate the potential health impacts of the proposed expansion.

Our findings show that if mitigative strategies are not put in place, children and the surrounding communities may experience increased exposure to harmful air pollution, face more traffic safety concerns, and have to deal with aggravated flooding risks.

We are advocating for TxDOT to include adequate mitigations of the project’s adverse health impacts in the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the project.

Continuing the Push to #MakeI45Better

We continue to work together with the Make I-45 Better Coalition, impacted residents, the City of Houston, Harris County, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, and TxDOT to make sure community concerns surrounding the project are addressed.

Learn more

Three meetings this week could set course for $7 billion remake of Interstate 45
Houston Chronicle, January 28, 2020

More Highways, More Problems
Texas Observer, August 21, 2019

Houston’s $7 billion solution to gridlock is more highways
Curbed, August 5, 2019

With an unprecedented amount of public input on the I-45 project, now what?
Rice Kinder Institute, July 30, 2019

Community Organizers Decry TxDOT’s I-45 Expansion Plan, Call for Delay in Local Approval
July 27, 2019

H-GAC approves more than $150 million for I-45 project to ‘stay in line’ for TxDOT funds
Rice kinder Institute, July 26, 2019

Houston’s Highway Mega-Plan: An Environmental Justice Disaster
USA Streetsblog, July 25, 2019 

Houston-area officials commit $100 million to I-45 widening project
Houston Chronicle, July 26, 2019

I-45 freeway expansion will force people out of homes, group says
ABC13, July 23, 2019

A new vision for I-45. And for Houston.
Houston Chronicle, July 13, 2019 

Report lists I-45 rebuild project among nation’s biggest highway boondoggles
Houston Chronicle, June 18, 2019 

Boondoggle: A Texas-Sized Mess of a Highway Plan
USA Streetsblog, June 19, 2019 

Massive I-45 project will remake Houston freeway spine, but at what cost?
Houston Chronicle, June 14, 2019

Debate Intensifies Over The I-45 North Widening Project
Houston Public Media, June 21, 2019 

How the I-45 project will affect two affordable housing communities
Rice Kinder Institute, June 19, 2019

Houston’s historic Independence Heights’ complicated past, present and future with divisive freeways
Rice Kinder Institute, June 17, 2019

TxDOT’s I-45 project could hurt a school and its community. But there are ways to mitigate the harm.
Rice Kinder Institute, June 12, 2019

Accelerating the drive toward a paradigm shift in Houston’s transportation planning
Rice Kinder Institute, June 10, 2019 

I-45 expansion impact report may not have considered Independence Heights
Houston Chronicle, June 10, 2019 

Jeff Speck Takes On Current I-45 Expansion Plan, Inspires More Action
Rice Kinder Institute, February 28, 2019 

Will the I-45 expansion make our air worse?
Houston Chronicle, April 10, 2018

What’s the real cost of new freeways in Houston?
Houston Chronicle, March 2, 2019 

Houston, highway builders have a lot riding on I-45 widening project
Houston Chronicle, March 15, 2018 

Adding lanes doesn’t reduce congestion. So what is TxDOT doing?
Houston Chronicle, October 18, 2017

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