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HOUSTON -- The United States Department of Transportation has reportedly told Texas transportation officials on Wednesday to stop eminent domain activities around a proposed multi-billion highway widening project that would cut through downtown Houston. Estimated at $7.5 billion, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) would widen I-45 in three sections, impacting more than 25 miles of interstate, worsen Houston’s already poor air pollution, and displace more than 1,000 residents, businesses, multiple houses of worship and schools.
Texas leads the nation in carbon emissions, many of which come from the transportation sector, now the country’s single largest contributor to the global climate crisis. On top of deadly air pollution, over 3,600 people die in vehicle crashes in Texas annually, while 17,000 more are left severely injured.
Across the country, local officials are pressing on with billions of dollars worth of wasteful highway boondoggle projects, like the NHHIP, with negative impacts on public health and climate change. TexPIRG and PIRG previously identified the NHHIP as one of the country’s most wasteful highway expansions in the 2019 Highway Boondoggles report.
Bay Scoggin, executive director of TexPIRG, issued the following statement:
“As one of the nation's worst highway boondoggles, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project would bring nothing but more cars and dirtier air to a city already drowning in traffic and pollution. The federal government’s recognition that Texas has not done its due diligence on a project which, by TxDOT's own admission, would displace thousands of Houstonians, is a crucial next step in the years-long advocacy against the widening of I-45. Let’s take a different approach to fix our congestion problems by taking cars off the road and investing this $7 billion in public transit."
John Stout, transportation advocate for U.S. PIRG, issued the following statement:
“The fundamental law of road congestion is that if you build it, they will come. More highways means more cars, not less congestion. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on polluting and ineffective highway projects that cut through communities, we need to use our funds for more pressing needs, such as repairs and maintenance of existing roads and bridges, preserving essential public transportation systems and making improvements to local streets.
We applaud the United States Department of Transportation and the Biden administration for taking a first step toward reversing the transportation status quo and we look forward to working with them to build a 21st-century infrastructure network - one with less pollution, less gridlock and more public and active transit.”
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