Having wrapped up Phase 1 of its Planning and Environmental Linkage Study on I-45 North last summer, the Texas Department of Transportation has begun Phase 2, during which TxDOT officials will continue to seek public input through summer 2020.

TxDOT launched a PEL study on the I-45 corridor between Beltway 8 North in Spring and South Loop 336 in Conroe in spring 2017 to identify future corridor needs based on existing road conditions, population growth projections and public input.

“Working with the community, we will develop ideas and alternatives to support the vision that we have and that the community has for the corridor [by] identifying issues and concerns early, which will save us time and mean few delays later in the process,” TxDOT Commissioner Laura Ryan said during a North Houston Association luncheon March 19.

Ryan said population growth is one of the biggest concerns driving the study, with Harris and Montgomery counties’ populations slated to increase by 46 and 141 percent, respectively, by 2045—adding 2.5 million additional people to the area.

“One of the major corridors in this area is I-45, and I-45 North needs some improvements,” she said. “With more than 200,000 vehicles on that portion of the interstate daily, it’s a legitimate, valid observation.”

Ryan said safety is another key factor being considered throughout the PEL process. Between 2012 and 2016, 11,992 total crashes occurred on the I-45 main lanes, 228 of which resulted in a fatality or incapacitating injury.

During Phase 1, TxDOT collected data, analyzed existing conditions and identified corridor issues and concerns to develop a vision for the corridor with community input. It was completed in summer 2018.

TxDOT Houston District Engineer Quincy Allen said during Phase 1, TxDOT had 105 individuals attend three community meetings to give input on the study. Some of the corridor concerns raised by residents included flooding, environmental impacts, improved intersection configuration, enhanced multimodal options such as bi-directional HOV lanes, and improved system connectivity with more direct connector ramps.

Phase 2 will develop and screen conceptual ideas and alternatives that support the corridor vision and consider viable alternatives. It will conclude with a presentation of PEL findings.

TxDOT Director of Project Development Pat Henry confirmed that Phase 2 will include additional public meetings, however exact dates had not been announced as of March 20.

“We need help getting the word out on how important public involvement in these meeting was and [will be] in [Phase 2],” Allen said. “We want to hear from the public—not just stakeholders, but ordinary citizens. There’s no idea that we don’t want to hear.”