At a public meeting on Houston’s northside, concerned neighbors look at maps showing some of TxDOT’s options for I-45 North. That’s the busy stretch that whips around the west side of downtown as the Pierce Elevated, and continues north past the 610 Loop to Beltway 8.
The segment between the North Loop and the North Belt currently ranks 10th on TxDOT’s list of the most congested freeways in Texas. And officials expect the traffic to only get worse, considering that the region’s population is expected to grow by about three million people between now and 2035.
TxDOT’s Danny Perez says the goal is to increase capacity on the North Freeway without tearing through surrounding neighborhoods.
“That’s why we came up with the idea of the elevated managed lanes and the elevated mainlanes. There are certain things we’re looking at, so we want to minimize impact on local communities.”
And what about the congested segment near downtown? One option would be to reconfigure the freeway to create a one-way loop around Houston’s skyline.
“Obviously cost is a big factor, limited space, so those are things we have to work within. The public’s input is very important.”
So what does the public think about TxDOT’s plans? We spoke to northside resident Erik Pitoniak as he wrote down suggestions on a TxDOT comment form. He thinks improvements are long overdue.
“You have traffic jams on the weekends even, even without an accident. Though I don’t think that much needs to be done, I do think expanding some lanes would really help.”
Another concerned resident at the meeting was Rob Griffith. He’s disappointed TxDOT rejected earlier plans to route some of the North Freeway through underground tunnels.
“Not a huge surprise considering cost and engineering and that sort of thing, but disappointing nonetheless. I am pleased that it looks like they’ve tried to minimize additional right-of-way needed for many of the routes. I am happy about that.”
But Jana Velez says she thinks TxDOT is going in the wrong direction. She wants to see a commuter rail system.
“Travel down a rail, there’s no traffic, there’s no accidents. There’s nothing you have to worry about. You sit on the train, the same way you would sit on a bus, but no traffic. You get on there, you go, you come back. I know a lot of people that live up north, travel all around the city, and they all say that would be their best method of transportation.”
TxDOT officials say a final decision on I-45 North is still a few years away, and once they decide how to proceed they’ll have to figure out how to pay for it. Earlier estimates put the I-45 improvement project at well over a billion dollars.
To learn more about the project and to make public comments, visit the I-45 North and More site.