Jan 31, 2024 - News

The lowdown on Houston's highway expansions

Drivers zoom along Interstate 45 with downtown Houston in the background

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Several transformative highway projects are going to reshape central Houston as we know it in the coming years.

Why it matters: When all is said and done, Houston's Inner Loop will have a new highway, toll road and elevated freeway and a reshaped downtown interchange.

  • Some organizations, like Air Alliance Houston, oppose some of the construction because of potential increased traffic, environmental impacts and more.

What's happening: The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is working on the $9.7 billion North Houston Highway Improvement Project, which will widen Interstate 45 from Beltway 8 North to downtown and reroute the freeway on the east side of the Central Business District.

  • After years of legal battles, TxDOT is slated to start work on the massive overhaul in September. The whole project likely won't be completed until 2042, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Meanwhile, here are three other highway projects you might not have heard of.

Texas Highway 35

TxDOT is working on building a $366 million, 3.4-mile, four-lane highway from I-45 near the University of Houston to South Loop 610.

  • The stretch will be a brand-new highway inside the Loop, aiming to connect Houston's southern suburbs like Pearland to the city center.
  • Neighborhood associations based near where the highway will be built, like the Fonde Civic Club, are opposing the project, citing the potential for increased traffic and alleging a lack of communication between TxDOT engineers and the public.
  • Construction started in May 2023 and should be complete by 2026.

Hardy Downtown Connector

For years, the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) has wanted to extend the Hardy Toll Road from its southern terminus at North Loop 610 all the way to downtown.

  • The $400 million, 3.6-mile project has no set timeline, but HCTRA has been ramping up public meetings and proposals geared toward bringing the project to fruition in the coming years.

Inner Katy project

TxDOT wants to elevate and reconstruct Interstate 10 from West Loop 610 to downtown while adding a dedicated bus lane in conjunction with Metro, a $347 million undertaking.

The bottom line: For better or worse, Houston will look very different in the next few years.

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