Contact: Danny Perez
Phone: (713) 802-5077
Date: Oct. 28, 2020
HOUSTON – Continuing efforts to enhance the interface, transparency and responsiveness to input provided expressed by the communities and stakeholders in proximity to the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is extending the time period for public review and comment on the NHHIP Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from Nov. 9 until Dec. 9, 2020.
The Final EIS was released for public review on Sept. 25, 2020 and the official Notice of Availability (NOA) was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 9, 2020. TxDOT proactively elected to accept public comments on the document within 30 days of the publishing of the NOA in the Federal Register to further welcome and encourage public engagement. The public’s input will continue to be considered throughout the project and particularly as the project advances beyond the point of environmental clearance.
TxDOT is now granting an additional 30-day extension which, combined with the additional two weeks of availability in advance of the NOA publishing date, provides a total of 75 days to submit comments to TxDOT for consideration in preparation of the Record of Decision (ROD). Comments on the Final EIS are now due to be received by TxDOT by close of business on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.
Comments on the Final EIS should be sent to:
Texas Department of Transportation
Attention: Director of Project Development
P.O. Box 1386
Houston, Texas 77251
or by email.
For further information or to request a copy of the Final EIS, please contact the Director of Project Development at (713) 802-5070.
TxDOT wishes to assure the public that our team will continue to engage with the stakeholders and seek meaningful opportunities to enhance this project. The conclusion of the process to achieve environmental clearance for the project, signified by the issuance of a ROD, is not the end of the project development process. Efforts to further refine and enhance the NHHIP will be undertaken during the detailed design phase, which is the next step. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done before the NHHIP is finalized. Receiving a ROD on the environmental analysis is only one of many stage gates along the way. Following the ROD, we will continue to refine the project and we are committed to judiciously identifying “win/win” opportunities to make the project reflect our collective best efforts.
The formal release of the Final EIS follows significant efforts to ensure the public has had ample opportunities to review document details and provide comments. TxDOT posted the draft technical reports that would ultimately be part of the Final EIS as soon as they were available, and allowed the public to review and comment on the individual reports before they were finalized for inclusion in the Final EIS.
In the last three years, TxDOT has posted a total of 12 technical reports, each including its own comment period of no less than 30 days, to have the benefit of the public’s feedback on the individual reports. Additionally, TxDOT has prepared a series of white papers titled “NHHIP Project Facts & Highlights” to help convey key information regarding high-priorities to the public. Finally, while the time period between the release of a Final EIS and a ROD is technically a waiting period and not a required comment period, TxDOT has established this time as a comment period in order to provide the public yet another opportunity to provide input on the project. Comments received on the Final EIS during the waiting period will be considered by TxDOT in the preparation of the ROD.
Additionally, the TxDOT project team has distributed thousands of direct mail pieces, electronic notifications, online postings and submissions to local news outlets regarding the availability of the Final EIS to inform and engage with those directly and indirectly affected by the project.
ABOUT THE NHHIP
The NHHIP consists of three segments and will provide approximately 24 miles of improvements along I-45, I 10, I-69, and SH 288 from Beltway 8 North to south of Downtown Houston. Projected population and economic growth is anticipated to increase congestion, further degrading the level of service through downtown Houston. Where the interchanges of I-45, I-69, I-10, and SH 288 converge in downtown Houston, the existing facilities do not provide adequate capacity resulting in heavy congestion during both peak and off-peak periods, longer travel times, and reduced mobility. The NHHIP in downtown Houston, as currently proposed, will consist of realigning I 45 away from the Pierce Elevated to be parallel with the I-10 and I-69 from the existing I-45 interchange with I 10 to the existing I-45 interchange with I-69, the construction of downtown connectors providing access between I-45/I-10 and local downtown streets, depressing and widening I-69 from the SH 288 interchange to I 10, reconstructing the I-69 interchanges with I-45 and I-10, reconstructing I-10 general purpose lanes and adding new non-tolled managed lanes from west of I-45 to east of I69 through downtown Houston, reconstructing the I-10 interchange with I-45, reconstructing SH 288 from south of I-69 to the I-45 interchange, and reconstructing the SH 288 interchange with I-69.
In addition, the NHHIP will address portions of I-45 that do not meet current roadway design standards, creating a traffic safety concern. Other roadway design deficiencies to be addressed include inadequate storm water drainage in some locations. Intense rainfall causes high water levels at the I-45/I-10 underpass and on the outside lanes. I-45 would not operate effectively as an evacuation route with high water closures, especially during hurricane evacuations when high rainfall events are likely. The proposed project also includes the addition of bicycle/pedestrian realms along the streets that cross the freeways; addition of sidewalks along frontage roads; addition of pass‐through lanes on I‐10 that will separate traffic desiring to go downtown from traffic destined to go through downtown; and other components to mitigate adverse effects on impacted communities.
More details on the purpose and need may be found in the Final EIS available online at: www.ih45northandmore.com. For more information regarding this release and/or TxDOT Houston District projects, contact Danny Perez at (713) 802-5077. Also, follow us on Twitter.