The Texas Department of Transportation held its fifth annual State of TxDOT event Oct. 21 to discuss the I-45 expansion, plans for the future and safety issues facing Texans.

The main topic was the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, a project that has been 15 years in the making.

The controversial project aims to widen and reroute parts of I-45, which will displace more than 1,000 residential units, 344 businesses, five places of worship and two schools, as previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper. Roughly 20 individuals from advocacy group Stop TxDOT I-45 protested outside the Oct. 21 event.

The NHHIP is on pause pending an investigation by the Federal Highway Administration. For now, there is little information about when the project will move from the standstill.

“Every day that this project is delayed, it puts us years behind,” said Laura Ryan, commissioner for the Texas Transportation Commission, during the event’s panel discussion.

Ryan also spoke about the growing issue of safety on Texas roads, citing data showing there has been a road fatality in Texas every day since Nov. 7, 2000. Some of the reasons for the fatalities include drivers failing to stay in one lane, distracted driving, driving under the influence, passengers not wearing a seatbelt and speeding, Ryan said.

TxDOT Houston District Engineer Eliza Paul, who also was on the panel, said there have also been a large number of traffic-related fatalities in the Houston area with there being 501 Harris County traffic-related fatalities in 2020, according to TxDOT data.

The panel concluded with what the future of transportation looks like, emphasizing how technology will be playing a large role in it.

Ryan spoke about increasing the amount of managed lanes, which are highway lanes where strategies are implemented in response to changes on the road. These can include high-occupancy vehicle lanes and high-occupancy toll lanes.

“Innovation is fascinating. I think it’s a big part of what’s coming, and we are looking at it and responding,” Ryan said.