SEABROOK, Texas – Traffic congestion in the area has become unmanageable, so the Texas Department of Transportation will expand State Highway 146 in the Seabrook-Kemah area.
Specifically, the project will consist of the following:
- Widen and restructure the existing facility to a six- to 12-lane freeway.
- Add grade separations at major intersections in Seabrook.
- Add access roads in selected locations.
- Add elevated express lanes over Clear Creek and through Kemah.
Will the expansion plans affect local businesses?
In a big way. KPRC found that at least 25 separate businesses have already been served with condemnation suits so TxDOT can widen the right-of-way to accommodate the new lanes, flyovers and interchanges.
Can TxDOT just take private property like that?
Yes, by way of eminent domain.
It is a process that is often long and contentious, but government entities -- federal, state and local -- have a common mechanism called eminent domain, which allows them to obtain private property and turn it in to public property if the project being undertaken is deemed to serve the greater good. The government also decides which projects meet this criteria. TxDOT's project fits the bill.
So the government can just take my property and not pay me?
In Texas, and in most locales in the U.S., the government must compensate the landowner at what essentially amounts to fair market value. The problem is fair market value depends on your point of view.
Several private property owners involved in the SH 146 project say they have not been offered a fair price for their land and buildings.
So what if you don't want to take the deal?
The government is going to get your property in almost every instance if the project is legitimate (i.e. highway expansion). But landowners can and do fight for more money. There are several layers to the appeal process.
The first step for property owners in this case is to be heard by a panel of local citizens. The next stop is a courtroom.