H-GAC group will look at crafting a five-party agreement around I-45 overhaul

North Houston Highway Improvement Project
The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council voted June 26 to form a working group to craft a memorandum of understanding that is envisioned as a way to secure commitments from the Texas Department of Transportation and other stakeholders around the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council voted June 26 to form a working group to craft a memorandum of understanding that is envisioned as a way to secure commitments from the Texas Department of Transportation and other stakeholders around the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

After a yearlong public input process by the city of Houston on the proposed I-45 overhaul and heightened concerns over effects on communities of color, members of the region’s transportation planning group will be exploring a possible agreement among stakeholders to ensure the project can move forward with minimal adverse effects.

“This is a perfect way to get everybody all at the table,” said Carrin Patman, chair of the board of directors for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. “Then you have a document that reassures ... those that expressed very valid and painful concerns today.”

The Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council voted June 26 to form a working group to craft a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that is envisioned as a way to secure commitments from the Texas Department of Transportation, Harris County, city of Houston, METRO and the Harris County Flood Control District around the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.

The recommendation to create such an agreement stemmed from a previous discussion by the Transportation Advisory Committee on June 19 amid discussion of Mayor Sylvester Turner's letter to TxDOT addressing community concerns.

The proposal was initially rebuffed by TxDOT’s top engineer for the Houston region, who said such an agreement has never been used to influence a project and that many concerns are already in the process of being addressed.


“We don’t need an MOU to tell us how to do our job,” district engineer Eliza Paul said at the June 26 meeting. “TxDOT is committed to working with everyone, all the entities at this table. ... A little bit of trust will go a long way.”

Other members, including Houston City Council Member Dave Robinson, said the agreement was not meant to antagonize or be too rigid, but to rather formalize the collaboration that TxDOT has been willing to engage in so far to address concerns raised by the public process.

“It’s not enough, we believe, to trust and verify,” Robinson said.

The agreement would be reviewed at a future meeting of the council and would have to ultimately be signed by all participating parties as well, as the MOU could involve contributions to support mitigation efforts.

Members of the Transportation Policy Committee also made it clear that construction on at least Segment 3, which calls for for over $3 billion in highway reconfiguration around downtown Houston, would move forward, though TxDOT is pushing back its scheduled letting date by one year to 2022.

Many of the concerns identified by the city of Houston input process were related to Segments 1 and 2, which are not yet fully supported under H-GAC’s Transportation Improvement Plan.

Funding for Segment 3 was supported by H-GAC last year.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


MOST RECENT

The Brazos Street bridge, which carries traffic from Hwy. 59 via Spur 527 into Midtown, has reopened after a $4 million rebuild. (Courtesy Houston Public Works/Aguirre & Fields)
Rebuilt Brazos Street bridge reopens with intersection improvements

The new bridge surface and reinforced steel structure are expected to last another 50 years, Houston Public Works said.

Harris County officials said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to staffing challenges for both the sheriff's and district attorney's offices, creating a perfect storm of more than 90,000 backlogged cases and subsequent overcrowding in the Harris County Jail—already the second largest county jail population in the U.S. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County infuses more than $25M to keep sheriff's, district attorney's offices afloat amid COVID-19 staffing challenges

Harris County officials said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to staffing challenges for both the sheriff's and district attorney's offices, creating a perfect storm of more than 90,000 backlogged cases and subsequent overcrowding in the Harris County Jail—already the second largest county jail population in the U.S.

Fort Bend County commissioners discussed vaccine distribution at a regular court session Jan. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Fort Bend County to open new vaccination sites and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The new voting machines differ from those previously used in Harris County in that they feature a digital touch screen as well as a paper copy of the voter's selections that the voter can verify before submitting the ballot into a secure on-site ballot box. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County purchases 12,000 new hybrid voting machines ahead of May 1 elections

The new voting machines differ from those previously used in Harris County in that they feature a digital touch screen as well as a paper copy of the voter's selections that the voter can verify before submitting the ballot into a secure on-site ballot box.

Eleven days after officials across Harris County's criminal justice system met to discuss how to alleviate overcrowding at the county jail during the coronavirus pandemic, progress has been "excruciatingly slow," according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. (Courtesy Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock)
Progress 'excruciatingly slow' on effort to address overcrowding at Harris County Jail

"I know it is keeping many of us awake at night, and it should. It absolutely should," said U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal, who is presiding over an ongoing lawsuit dealing with the county's felony bail practices.

Texas Medical Center offers coronavirus updates

More than 118,000 people have received their first shot.

Harris County Flood Control District is planning to submit preliminary flood plain maps to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in late 2021. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County's preliminary flood plain maps to be released in late 2021

The new flood insurance rates in Harris County could take effect in 2023 or 2024.

vaccine drive-thru
Houston opens first drive-thru vaccination site

The site aims to distribute 1,000 doses per day for the first week and can scale up if more doses become available.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the opening of a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist at a Jan. 25 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy Facebook)
Harris County to open waitlist for COVID-19 vaccines Jan. 26

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo warned that vaccine supply remains "extremely limited," and it will still take time for those waitlisted to get an appointment.

A monthslong process to reach an understanding between regional leaders and the Texas Department of Transportation about objectives of the I-45 project stalled Jan. 22. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-GAC group stalls I-45 resolution after TxDOT objects to agreement

TxDOT officials told members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council that the agency’s lawyers advised them not to sign off on the new resolution.