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Houston Matters

When It Rains, Houston’s Freeways Flood. One Researcher Wants To Change That

Rice University’s Jim Blackburn wants a flood warning system created that would shut down freeways before they flood.

Flooding in downtown Houston after Harvey hit the region in August 2017.


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Before, during, and after any given flood event in Houston, you might hear the common refrain that our streets are specifically designed to flood. That they’re designed that way intentionally to channel water away from homes when our existing drainage systems get overwhelmed. And that includes Houston's freeways.

But Jim Blackburn takes issue with that. He heads the Bayou City Initiative and co-directs Rice University's SSPEED Center.

Recently, he laid out his concerns about that in a letter to state and federal transportation officials.

In the audio above, he tells Houston Matters host Craig Cohen he’d like to see freeways raised and a flood warning system created that, during heavy rain, would shut down affected freeways before they flood.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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