The Texas Department of Transportation hosted the first of two in-person Planning and Environmental Linkages study meetings on Jan. 17 at Oak Ridge High School to present and discuss possible future improvements to I-45 from Beltway 8 North to South Loop 336 in Conroe.

The PEL study is currently in Phase 2, which involves hosting public meetings for community members to view multiple options for an I-45 improvement project and to give feedback based on design, impact and goals for the corridor. Based on the feedback received from the public, TxDOT will then identify and develop more concrete plans to present in a final public meeting series.

TxDOT has come up with three primary alternatives to the current structure of I-45 spanning 24 miles from Houston to Conroe.

Alternative 1:

The first design proposal would use the existing paved roadway and restripe it to create one high-occupancy vehicle lane and five main lines in both directions. The project would not require additional right-of-way, according to TxDOT, but it would use a portion of the shoulders on the freeway to create the additional lanes. This plan does not make any improvements or changes to the frontage roads.

Alternative 2:

The second proposal would require additional right-of-way along I-45 in order to widen the freeway and make way for two HOV lanes as well as four to five main lanes north and south. It would also require full reconstruction of the frontage roads and ramps, but it would keep the same number of lanes. This would also add a shared-use path in place of sidewalks along the frontage.

Alternative 3:

The third proposal would require some additional right-of-way, but it would require a significant amount of construction to create two elevated HOV lanes going north and south. This would leave the same number of main and frontage lanes which currently exist and also create a shared-use path.

Supplemental improvements

A number of supplemental improvements which can be used with each of the primary alternative plans were also presented. These included ramp consolidations, frontage road expansion, ramp relocations, nearby thoroughfare improvements and multimodal hub creation.

These alternatives came from Phase 1 of the study, which took place in 2019. The study looked at traffic flows, crash data and connectivity. The study found opportunities for multiple direct connectors at Hwy. 242, the Grand Parkway, Woodlands Parkway and Robinson Road.

The current public comment period for this portion of the PEL study runs through Feb. 3, and people can submit public comments online or at the next public meeting on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. at Hochzeit Hall, 427 Gentry Street, Spring.