The $ 9 billion highway widening project proposed in the Houston area is an important test of the Biden administration’s commitment to address what it said is a history of racial inequality with US infrastructure projects. There is a possibility
Critics of the project, including community groups and some residents, have polluted, evacuated and flooded primarily black and Latin populations without improving local transportation problems and public transport options. It states that it will be exposed to an increase.
Its supporters have rebuilt 24 miles along Interstate Highway 45, with several other roads increasing driver safety, reducing traffic congestion, addressing flood mitigation and disaster evacuation needs. Compete with the proposed 10-year construction project to do.
The project has been working for nearly 20 years and has been on hold since March, as the Federal Highway Authority is considering the civil rights and environmental justice concerns raised regarding the proposal. Harris County, where Houston is located, has also filed a federal proceeding, alleging that state officials have ignored the impact of the project on its neighbors.
The controversy over the project arises because Secretary of Transportation Pete Butigeg has promised to make racial equality a top priority in his department.
In response to a question from Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Butigeg said the impact of “wrong traffic policies” was “disproportionate in the black and brown communities and neighborhoods.” rice field.
The I-45 project is expected to replace more than 1,000 homes and apartments, along with 344 businesses, two schools and five prayers, primarily in black and Latin neighborhoods.
“It’s very racially unjustified,” said Molly Cook of Stop TxDOTI-45, one of the community groups opposed to the project, who stood in a dead end in northern Houston. expansion. “We spend all this money to make traffic worse and hurt many people.”
Fabian Ramirez, a 40-year-old family member who has lived in a neighborhood near downtown Houston since the 1960s, said he could be forced to sell his property once the project was completed.
It took time for my family’s generation to reach this position where they could say, “This property right next to downtown is mine.” And it’s nerve-wracking for the government to come and rob the property as soon as I get it, “Ramirez said.
Five members of the Texas Department of Transportation, commonly known as TxDOT, and the Texas Department of Transportation, which governs it, supported the claim that the project promotes racial inequality. Agency spokesman Bob Kauffman said Tuesday that TxDOT has “widely worked” with local governments and communities to “develop concrete solutions.”
“This project can’t be everything that everyone wants or believes in, but it can revolutionize the region and state,” said Commission member Laura. Ryan said at a meeting in August.
The Commission said the federal government could consider whether to withdraw state funding for the project at a meeting on 9 December if the investigation was not completed by the end of this month.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Federal Highway Authority said the review was ongoing.
Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University in Houston, said the I-45 proposal continues a long history of infrastructure projects, including the creation of an interstate highway system in the 1950s. believe. In a minority neighborhood through the loss of homes and businesses and exacerbated inequality.
Ines Siguel, interim executive director of LINK Houston, a non-profit organization focused on traffic issues against the expansion of the I-45, said the federal government’s decision in Houston to improve the national community. He said it could lead to significant changes.
Similar discussions on highway and infrastructure projects are taking place in other US cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, Mobile, Alabama, and Los Angeles.
“Unless local governments and state governments want to change the overall approach, highway expansion has a negative impact on the environment and wants to reduce the number of cars, it’s very difficult to reach the Biden administration’s goals. Probably, “said Jona Freemark. Senior Researcher at the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
Last week, Harris County officials suspended a proceeding against TxDOT in hopes of resolving concerns about the project. This move surprised several community groups fighting the project.
But last week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s highest-elected official, ensured that the suspension wasn’t the end of the proceedings, but that the project was “positive and respecting the health of the community.” He said he promised to do.
Bob Harvey, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Houston Partnership, a key business group in the Houston region that supports the project, said his organization is optimistic that concerns will be resolved. We guarantee that important projects will move forward. “
Roger Panetta, a former history professor at Fordham University in New York, said that the problem of racism and inequality is so persistent with the expansion of the highway that “it will be very difficult to get rid of. -People who oppose the 45 project will have a difficult fight. ” “”