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Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any city in the country, Houston is planning to spend $7 billion on the “North Houston Highway Improvement Project.” According to a new report from TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, the project would expand I-45 through the middle of Houston, displacing homes and dividing communities.
“The fundamental law of road congestion is that if you build it, they will come,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund director. “More highways means more cars, so policymakers are living in a ‘Field of Dreams’ if they think this project will reduce congestion.”
“To improve Houston’s transportation system, we have to reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” Scoggin continued. “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will lead to more traffic, pollution and sprawl.”
Houston has the second-most expensive commute in the country, the deadliest roads in the nation and the ninth most high smog days in the country in 2019. According to Highway Boondoggles 5, the expansion of I-45 will exacerbate all of these problems.
“Even as it fails to make Houston safer or healthier, the project will also likely fail to achieve its basic goal of reducing congestion,” continued Scoggin. “Houston should look to its own Katy Freeway as an example of why this won’t work. Following that highway’s $2.8 billion widening, commute times actually increased.”
According to the report, the I-45 expansion will also displace four houses of worship, two schools, 168 single-family homes, 1,067 multifamily units and 331 businesses with 24,873 employees -- all while widening barriers between neighborhoods, paving over parks, and making transportation more difficult for people without cars.
"Sometimes it's the infrastructure we don't build that makes all the difference," said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. "Cities from Dallas to Tampa to Milwaukee have discovered that ditching boondoggle highway projects has opened up new opportunities to build stronger, cleaner and more fiscally sustainable communities."
The report recommends that Texas cancel the North Houston Highway Improvement Project and other proposed highway projects, and instead invest in more effective transportation solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion.
“Texas, like the rest of America, still has a misplaced appetite for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects. But if we’re smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars, we can achieve a more sustainable, affordable and better-functioning transportation system,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Transportation Campaign director. “That means avoiding spending billions of dollars on harmful, wasteful projects such as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.”
TexPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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