Texas county files suit to halt $7.5bn highway plan

A federal lawsuit was filed Thursday to stop a $7.5bn highway widening project in Houston over fears that it would disproportionately displace vulnerable residents.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to widen the I-45, the main highway linking between Dallas and Houston, over the course of the next 10 years. The project would improve a 39km stretch in Harris County, which contains the city of Houston.

The lawsuit was filed by Harris County, and follows a call by the Federal Highway Administration last week that the project be suspended until it could review civil rights and environmental justice concerns.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said: "Our region’s complex transportation challenges require innovation and creative thinking. So far, TxDOT’s vision for I-45 lacks both. Instead, this proposal relies on an antiquated approach that continues the painful legacy of freeway expansions that unnecessarily harm families and businesses and ultimately fail to improve our quality of life. 

"Throwing more concrete at this problem is not going to solve it. We are calling on TxDOT to innovate and lead, rather than repeating the same flawed approach that put us in this situation."

"Wider highways means more congestion," she told a news conference. "It displaces communities and businesses, particularly lower-income neighbourhoods."

TxDOT has said the proposal would improve safety and efficiency on a transport corridor that has not changed in 50 years, as well as preparing for a transition to self-driving vehicles.

Image: The I-45 in downtown Houston (Dhanix/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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