Federal highway administrator, TxDOT finalize $9 billion I-45 expansion project

HOUSTON – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held a meeting Thursday with Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt and stakeholders on the upcoming I-45 expansion project.

Community leaders and advocates, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, were also in attendance.

The meeting came after the Federal Highway Administration signed a voluntary resolution agreement and lifted the pause on the project earlier this month.

“This agreement moves forward an important project, responds to community concerns, and improves the North Houston Highway Improvement Project in ways that will make a real difference in people’s lives. Through this agreement, the community will have a greater voice in the design and throughout the project’s life cycle,” Bhatt said in a released statement. “We have lifted the pause, and with FHWA oversight, TXDOT may proceed with design and construction.”

Title VI mentioned concerns about fairness and equity, as it pertained to the project, was the reason for the halt.

The $9 billion expansion would start from downtown through Beltway 8, with some parts stretching east of downtown.

Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, who gave the federal highway administrator a tour of impacted properties Thursday, like the now vacant Clayton Homes, said the agreement helps to minimize the project’s footprint by taking air quality, the loss of housing and the impact on parks and historic properties into consideration.

“This Title VI process really helped save our lives and I’m grateful we’re all engaged and we all have a structure in working with TXDOT,” Jackson-Lee said.

Community activists, who have been vocal about the impact on communities of color, said they’ll ensure TXDOT sticks to its end of the bargain.

“We’re gonna continue being the watchdogs for this project, demanding better, so that our communities are not re-exploited by projects that have already taken advantage of communities of color,” said Gabe Cazares, Executive Director of LINK Houston.


After a two-year pause, feds give Texas the go-ahead to resume a major Houston highway expansion

TxDOT to demolish 375 Lofts at the Ballpark housing units during pause of I-45 expansion

Harris County Commissioners Court votes to temporarily pause lawsuit against TxDOT’s I-45 expansion project

‘Stop putting cars over people’: Harris County sues TxDOT over I-45 expansion project

About the Authors:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 3, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.