In just a few weeks, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) could be releasing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the I-45 Expansion.
Public engagement is vital to ensuring sustainable and equitable outcomes from this monumental project, however, the COVID-19 crisis has made continued participation in the process all but impossible for many.
To ensure that those most affected by this project will have a chance to have their voices heard, Air Alliance Houston and allies have sent a letter to the City of Houston and TxDOT requesting a delay in the release of the FEIS for the project.
The FEIS plays a critical role in the project’s final design and there is a deep public interest in understanding the document and participating in the corresponding public meeting process.
As always, there is strength in numbers: Please take action now and contact Mayor Turner, TxDOT, and other elected officials to express your support for our letter and to request a delay of the FEIS.
We recommend that you contact:
Mayor Sylvester Turner:
[email protected] | 832.393.1000
Eliza Paul, P.E., TxDOT Houston District Engineer:
[email protected] | 713.802.5000
Harris County Judge and Commissioners:
Lina Hidalgo, County Judge:
[email protected] | 713.274.7000
Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1:
[email protected] | 713.274.1000
Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2:
[email protected] | 713.755.6220
Steve Radack, Precinct 3:
[email protected] | 713.755.6306
Jack Cagle, Precinct 4:
[email protected] | 713.755.6444
At-Large Houston City Council Members:
Mike Knox, At-Large 1:
[email protected] | 832.393.3014
David Robinson, At-Large 2:
[email protected] | 832.393.3013
Michael Kubosh, At-Large 3:
[email protected] | 832.393.3005
Letitia Plummer, At-Large 4:
[email protected] | 832.393.3012
Sallie Alcorn, At-Large 5:
[email protected] | 832.393.3017
Thank you for taking action.
Air Alliance Houston
Bakeyah S. Nelson, PhD
Air Alliance Houston
2520 Caroline Street, Suite 100
Houston, Texas 77004
March 30, 2020
Mayor Sylvester Turner
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX 77251
Eliza Paul, P.E.
TxDOT Houston District Office
7600 Washington Avenue
Houston, TX 77007
Dear Mayor Turner and Eliza Paul, P.E., Texas Department of Transportation Houston District:
We write to request that the City of Houston and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) issue a joint statement delaying the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) due to the restrictions placed on the public during this pandemic caused by the coronavirus COVID-19.
The FEIS is an important document impacting thousands of people who live and work in areas along the project corridor. There is deep public interest in understanding the FEIS and a corresponding desire to participate in the public meeting process that is required by law. Under the current circumstances, it is impossible for many people to hear or participate in this legally required public process. Moreover, when the FEIS is issued, important timelines begin regarding the community’s ability to seek amendments or changes to the document. At this time, Houston and Harris County elected leaders have issued a shelter in place declaration until at least April 3, with most area schools shut down until at least April 13, making it extremely difficult for the general public—particularly those living in the areas most affected by the NHHIP—to prioritize comments, engaging with, and understanding this $7 billion project.
Furthermore, many elderly and low-income individuals rely on public places such as libraries to access information that will be released in this report. They will be unable to do so if this report is released on schedule because all of those community spaces have been closed during this public health crisis. Finally, elected officials have asked employers and employees to work from home if possible, making it extremely difficult for the non-profit entities below to continue engaging with community members and each other to ensure a robust and transparent process around this project.
As we have routinely stated, public feedback on this monumental project is vital to ensure the process and the outcomes from this infrastructure investment are equitable. No public meetings or civic and community gatherings will be able to be held to discuss the contents of the report for the foreseeable future. Moreover, even before the report is issued, the ability of community members to meet and discuss this project during super neighborhood meetings, or other types of meetings has been disrupted and in many cases, completely stopped. As all of you know, community meetings have been essential to facilitating discussion on this project and will be all the more important with the impending Record of Decision.
In order to ensure that the public feedback process is equitable and accessible, TxDOT should take into account the gravity of the current public health crisis by accommodating community members that will be most affected by delaying the release of the FEIS until the crisis subsides. Similarly, TxDOT should take into consideration the considerable burden on Mayor Turner and his staff during this time and delay the release of the FEIS to allow for adequate time to finish the city’s redesign process.
Specifically, we ask that a statement that delays the release of the FEIS until the later of the two – either the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2020 or until the pandemic’s impact on the region has been diminished to the point of allowing public feedback consistent with what would have been expected prior to the pandemic, be issued prior to the April 30th public meeting of the Texas Department of Transportation Commissioners’ meeting. Mayor Turner, we also ask that you articulate the same by requesting this or expressing these same concerns.
Air Alliance Houston
Eastwood Civic Association
Montie Beach Civic Club
Super Neighborhood Alliance
Friends of Woodland Park, Inc.
Bayou Preservation Association, Inc.
Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy
Galveston Bay Foundation
The Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis, Vicar
Northside Episcopal Church
White Oak Bayou Association
Lower Brazos Riverwatch
Stop TxDOT I-45
Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Greater Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood #55
Citizens Transportation Coalition
Bayou City Waterkeeper
Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience
State Representative Christina Morales
CC: [email protected]