A complaint was filed by Air Alliance Houston, LINK Houston, Stop TxDOT I-45, Texas Housers, and Texas Appleseed.
“The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is engaged in ongoing discrimination against Black and Brown populations that will be most adversely affected by the proposed highway expansion in North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) according to an administrative complaint filed today with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).”
Harris County filed a Title VI Complaint against TxDOT that alleges discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Harris County also asked USDOT and FHWA to revoke the Memorandum that allows TxDOT to self-certify projects. And Harris County asked for the comment period to be re-opened.
“We believe that Texas Department of Transportation (“TxDOT”) has violated Harris County residents’ civil rights and that the facts and argument below establishes a prima facie case of discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Consistent with President Joe Biden’s directive to federal agencies, the Harris County Attorney requests that the U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) and the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) accept this Complaint for investigation. Further, we request that USDOT and FHWA rescind the certification given by TxDOT in support of the NHHIP to certify its compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination laws, all of which are a requirement to qualify for federal funding. Our residents want a re-opening of the comment period because some of them were entirely excluded by TxDOT’s public outreach efforts thus far.”
On March 8, 2021 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asked TxDOT to pause project contract solicitation efforts while they determine if the NHHIP violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
On March 11, 2021 Harris County attorney Christian Menefee filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that TxDOT failed to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Discovery is scheduled for February 15, 2022. Trial is scheduled for July 2022. Follow the case on CourtListener.
On June 14, 2021 the FHWA sent a letter to TxDOT to clarify that the pause applies to “right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, including solicitations, negotiations and eminent domain, and final design activities.” The letter also says that the FHWA is reviewing TxDOT's compliance with the Memorandum that allows TxDOT to self-certify projects and is considering intervention.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration requesting that they "intervene to ensure that TxDOT's FEIS meets the spirit and letter of the law for NEPA" and that they specifically "consider withdrawing the assignment of the USDOT Secretary’s responsibilities for this project."
Air Alliance Houston and 16 co-signing organizations sent a civil rights complaint to TxDOT expressing "concern that issuing a Record of Decision (ROD) for the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP)... would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964... and The Texas Department of Transportation’s own Title VI/Nondiscrimination Plan."
TxDOT Executive Director James Bass sent a statement to be read at the H-GAC Transportation Policy Council (TPC) stating that "TxDOT’s position on the Resolution remains unchanged from our position on the MOU." After hearing more comments against the Resolution from Commissioner Laura Ryan, the TPC chose to table the Resolution.
Here is a sampling of the comments that were sent in responses to TxDOT's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
On September 25, 2020, TxDOT released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Several elected officials request extra time to comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
2020-09-30 CM Karla Cisneros FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
2020-10-12 Commissioner Adrian Garcia FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
2020-10-12 Judge Lina Hidalgo FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
2020-10-16 Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
2020-10-19 Congresswoman Jackson Lee FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
2020-10-20 Commissioner Rodney Ellis FEIS Comment Extension (pdf)Download
Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan responded to Mayor Turner, making no commitment to change anything before TxDOT releases the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.
The City of Houston's NHHIP Facilitation Group presented their analysis and recommended Vision C. This design alternative will keep I-45 within its existing right-of-way as much as possible.
Mayor Sylvester Turner sent a letter to TxDOT with a new vision for the NHHIP, including 10 pages of specific requests, covering all 3 segments.
Several elected representatives endorsed Vision C for Segments 1 & 2. The letter was signed by Rep. Jackson Lee, Rep. Eastman, Senator Alvarado, Rep. Morales, Comm. Garcia, CM Alcorn, CM Cisneros, CM Davis, CM Gallegos, CM Kamin, CM Plummer, and CM Robinson.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo echoed Turner's vision and asked TxDOT to delay their Final Environmental Impact Statement.
2020-04-13 CoH NHHIP Facilitation Group Vision C (pdf)Download
2020-05-12 Mayor Sylvester Turner Vision C for I-45 (pdf)Download
2020-04-26 CM Karla Cisneros Endorsement of Vision C (pdf)Download
2020-05-05 Senator Alvarado Endorsement of Vision C (pdf)Download
2020-05-12 Houston Elected Officials Endorsement of Vision C (pdf)Download
2020-05-19 Lina Hidalgo vision & delay FEIS (pdf)Download
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis asked TxDOT to delay their Final Environmental Impact Statement.
"As part of a multi-agency collaboration, including the City of Houston, the County and METRO, my office is working to evaluate proposed alternatives to TxDOT’s recent plans. These plans will address our region’s transportation goals and the feedback of those directly affected by the NHHIP expansion. This effort will be in vain if TxDOT does not take into account the effects of COVID-19 on our ability to evaluate the project and proposed alternatives within the current expected timeline."