The Texas Department of Transportation has reached a critical milestone in its highly scrutinized proposal to overhaul much of I-45 through Houston.

The environmental impact study published Sept. 25 is one of the final stages in the project’s approval process, which has been over a decade in the making.

Next, TxDOT will issue its record of decision, and the Texas Transportation Commission will give approval for the agency to seek construction firms and begin work.

Eliza Paul, TxDOT’s Houston district engineer, said, however, that the communication process between TxDOT and local officials and residents will continue throughout the process.

“The TxDOT Project Team will continue to consider all input received during the lifetime of the [North Houston Highway Improvement Project],” Paul said in a statement accompanying the report. “We look forward to continued coordination with the public on the development and refinement of the proposed NHHIP, which is a very important project for the region that will enhance safety and mobility for all users.”

The project has solicited strong reactions from some Houston residents and elected officials for its proposal to reroute and expand the highway through the East End while abandoning its path through Midtown. Advocacy groups such as Stop I-45 and The Make I-45 Better Coalition claim the project will have disproportionately negative impacts on communities of color in the East End, Fifth Ward and Northside.

Proponents of the project say it will alleviate congestion, flooding and safety issues on the over 50-year-old highway.

In response, Mayor Sylvester Turner created an input process between members of the public and the Houston Planning Department to propose alternatives to the project's preliminary design.

Members of the public have until Nov. 9 to submit comments on the study, according to TxDOT.

Comments can be submitted by mail to the Texas Department of Transportation, Director of Project Development, P.O. Box 1386, Houston, Texas 77251 or by email to, [email protected].

Read the full statement, including technical reports, public comments and responses to public comments here.