HOUSTON – Plans to cure traffic on Houston’s north freeway threatens to displace hundreds of homes and businesses.
Property owners voiced their opinions during a public hearing Thursday evening.
The Texas Department of Transportation held another hearing on Tuesday.
In the noisy, crowded Houston Community College classroom in midtown on Thursday, TxDOT mapped north and downtown Houston’s plans to ease traffic problems growing with the city’s rising population.
The $7 billion plan is a three-phase makeover that is at least one decade away, TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez said.
Still, those with homes or property owned in proposed construction zones sense its impact right now.
Miguel Ayala told us he worries about his family’s house and wonders why TxDOT wants his property and the list of churches, school, stores, and service providers for minority communities affected named on the project’s website.
The Mexican Consulate may need to move too.
During the latest public hearing on the matter, Perez told KHOU 11 News TxDOT’s proposal has nothing to do with race.
“We’re not going after a certain type of community,” Perez said. “It’s just where we can widen the freeway and how we can get a freeway built.”
Perez said the state chose proposed routes where TxDOT owns significant right-of-way because buying it is “very expensive.”
“(This project) is long overdue,” said Eddith Stohr, whose 36-year-old printing business with her husband, Robert, is in the proposed construction zone. “(TxDOT) should have done it a long time ago.”
While the Stohrs see opportunities in the future, Suraj Singh just learned he likely needs to sell a third of property he bought six months ago.
“It hurts because this is the first property we bought downtown,” he said.
Singh’s development is on hold for the moment while he looks for ways to make TxDOT’s plans work for him.
TxDOT is negotiating with people affected, even offering relocation assistance, Perez said. Some people may not have to give up their entire property, Perez added.
TxDOT hopes to finalize construction plans late next year.