“I think the poster for this project is child [the administration’s] Policies, “said Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, representing the Houston area, who has joined local officials to challenge the project.
In a March 8 letter to the state, the Federal Highway Administration, citing complaints from local activists and Jackson Lee, urged the Texas Department of Transportation to halt the expansion of its I-45, including requesting more contracts, including civil rights concerns and federal DOT. It’s time to dump her.
Federal officials could eventually allow the project to proceed, but the process of stabilizing it, and especially the use of civil rights laws by the DOT to consider that decision, activists took to the ground and surprised even experienced regulators in Washington.
“This is a big deal,” said Attorney Fred Wagner, who served as general advisor to the FHWA for three years during the Obama administration. “It just doesn’t happen very often.”
Known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, the proposal will expand I-45 into three sections. An environmental review of TxDOT’s project, completed in February, found that it would have a major impact on the communities it passes through, displacing more than 1,000 homes and housing units, 344 businesses, five places of worship and two schools.
Local activists say the communities that will be harmed are disproportionately home to black and Hispanic residents. And the effects go straight to displacements: Twenty-six schools will be brought within 500 feet of the highway, which will increase children’s pollution in the metropolitan area, which has already been plagued by car exhaust.
“How can we accept a project like that? He has been with us for at least one pay generation, ”said Leena Hidalgo, an elected county judge in Harris County, which includes the Houston metro area and its environs.
Opponents of the project have proposed an alternative which Hidalgo said is a short-term measure and would allow for transportation. The county recently sued TxDOT for failing to consider environmental impacts during its planning and review.
“I can’t tell you how much we’ve talked to the state about this,” he said, adding that he had “received nothing but lip service.”
“You can imagine the frustration,” he said. “There has been so much time, effort and heartache even through the community.”
Hidalgo said the DOT’s intervention was a welcome surprise, adding that it gives opponents of the project a “more realistic chance” of redress.
“I believe [Buttigieg] “Jackson Lee said he recently spoke with the head of the DOT about the project.” And I think the federal dollar was used to ignore the views of the community. “
The Houston project is a test case for Buttigg, with promises of its displacement and disinfranchisement in response to the devastating historic historic highway building frequently cited by Buttigag, Wegne said.
The former FHW adviser said this has become the first type of test of the new administration to show how it will apply its standards for more appropriate vehicle dealings on a megaproct jacket like this.
The project has been in the works for years. So, “the DOT probably took the step and said, ‘We don’t think that’s the right solution,’ it would be a really big deal.”
Part of the reason the situation is so unique is that Texas is a so-called “assignment state,” one in seven appointed to serve as a proxy for the federal government when it comes to administering the National Environmental Policy Act.
In most states, the federal government can raise disproportionate impact issues through the general federal environmental review process. But Texas, as an assignment state, had already completed that process, resulting in the Record of Decision being finalized in February.
The Federal DOT has therefore turned to Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act to justify its termination, stating: “No person in the United States, on the basis of race, color, or national origin, shall be excluded from participating in, denied or denied benefits, or You will be discriminated against under any program or activity that receives federal financial aid. “
“Clearly TXDOT clearly violated it, recklessly violated it,” Jackson Lee said.
Further action may include directing Texas to reconsider its analysis of the project, or more severely, it may be denied outright under civil rights law.
“When they said we stop, they didn’t necessarily move their hand,” Wagner said.
Neither FHWA nor TxDOT answered specific questions.
A spokesman for the federal agency said FHWA and USDOT officials were evaluating several Title VI concerns raised by Houston-area community groups about the project.
And TxDOT spokesman Adam Haymans said the agency “is in contact with the FHWA to clarify what the break may mean as long as the time for future contract request efforts is relevant.” He will not comment on the clarification, citing the remaining laws.