Some Houston residents doubt TxDOT’s plan to raise part of I-10 – Houston Public Media

Ashley M Brown

The Texas Department of Transportation is proposing to raise Interstate 10 between Heights Boulevard and Interstate 45, along with building a holding pond that could encroach on a wooded area just north.

A proposed plan to raise Interstate 10 in the Highlands area has some residents nearby asking questions about how the project could increase traffic noise, reduce nearby green space, and potentially exacerbate structural flooding.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held a public meeting Thursday to discuss its $347 million plan to raise major I-10 lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes between Heights Boulevard and Interstate 45 to the east, with the goal of reducing flood risk along a stretch of storm-watered highway During Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and also during Tropical Storms Allison and Imelda. TxDOT also wants to build a 21.7-acre retention pond just below and north of the elevated road, bypassing a wooded area between I-10 and White Oak Bayou to the north.

Brad Snead, a nearby resident who chairs the Woodland Heights Civic Association’s infrastructure committee, said Friday during the Houston Matters with Craig Cohen that he and his neighbors are studying the proposal with a critical eye. Woodland Heights is located northwest of the intersection between I-10 and I-45.

“Anytime TxDOT says it will touch those highways, our antennas will go up and we have doubts,” Snead said. “We fear that the suburbs will benefit our area…but we don’t have an official position on the project yet. Our biggest concern is noise and what are you going to do with this holding pond area.”

A spokesperson for TxDOT’s Houston office did not immediately respond to a Friday afternoon voicemail requesting comment. According to a virtual presentation on the TxDOT website, the project will use a mix of federal and state funding, with a legally required Environmental Impact Assessment scheduled for 2023 and construction to begin in the summer of 2024.

TxDOT is accepting public comments on the project until August 12th. Comments may be emailed to hou-piowebmail@txdot.gov or mailed to TxDOT’s Houston area office at PO Box 1386, Houston, TX, 77251-1386. More information about the project and feedback can be found at txdot.gov, using a keyword search for “I-10 from Heights Blvd.”

A representative for the Houston Parks Board, which manages hiking and bike trails and other green space facilities near the project area, said the nonprofit is studying TxDOT’s proposal and has no comment at this time.

TxDOT said in its online presentation that it does not expect any housing or business to be replaced on the project, which covers 1.8 miles of I-10. Proposed elevation numbers for the highway to work in conjunction with other TxDOT and METRO projects planned for the I-10 extension between I-45 and Loop 610 to the west, with those initiatives aimed at expanding the route capacity as well as multimodal transportation options.

Part of TxDOT’s plan for the extension between Heights Boulevard and I-45 calls for a shared 10-foot-wide path for pedestrians and cyclists that will run in tandem with I-10 and connect to existing lane systems. This is a welcome advantage, according to Mark Williamson, president of the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council and president of land use for the Houston Heights Association.

“I’m glad they opened with trails,” Williamson said of Thursday’s meeting with community members. “Usually we have to argue with them to do some plastic surgery.”

Williamson said he shared Snead’s concerns about the extent to which the proposed detention pond would encroach on the wooded area between I-10 and White Oak Bayou in the north, which Snead described as a scenic area rare in an otherwise urban environment. Soundproof between the highway and the residential area in the north. Both said they were pleased to learn Thursday that most of the detention pool will be under I-10.

Snead said he is still asking TxDOT to clear the existing forest area and conserve as much of it as possible.

Snead said I-10 will rise as much as 112 feet above Taylor Street, which also raises concerns about potential increases in traffic noise.

“They don’t yet know every detail of what they can do and how raising it will affect votes,” Williamson said of TxDOT. “It’s hard to make an intelligent comment about that when they don’t know what to do.”

Regarding the desire to eliminate flood risk on a well-running stretch of highway, Williamson acknowledged that it was an issue that needed to be addressed. He also said that there are other low points along I-10 that cannot be identified by the proposed project.

There could also be a potential impact on Olivewood Cemetery, a historic African American cemetery near the western end of the project area, located south of I-10 in a place where White Oak Bayou meanders south of the highway. Frequent flooding events near the bay eroded the northern part of the 7.5-acre cemetery, damaging or relocating dozens of tombs.

“Raising I-10 and its proposed detention pond may not solve the erosion problem in the cemetery,” TxDOT said in its online presentation. “But the proposed project will not increase flood water levels or erosion on the historic cemetery property.”

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