Apr 4, 2024 - News

Critics say Texas 288 construction violates agreement with feds

A car ushers past a "ROAD CLOSED" signs on North MacGregor Way

Crews closed portions of North MacGregor Way near Texas 288 this week. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

A drainage project along Texas 288 near North MacGregor Way is drawing questions from nearby residents.

Why it matters: Community leaders suspect the work, which Texas Department of Transportation contractors started this week, is part of the massive, $9.7 billion North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), which cannot legally commence before August.

Friction point: TxDOT, which is overseeing both construction projects, denies the current construction is part of the NHHIP despite claims to the contrary from organizers with the group Stop TxDOT I-45, the MacGregor Super Neighborhood, and at least two elected officials.

Context: In a voluntary resolution agreement in 2023, TxDOT agreed to conduct air quality monitoring along each of the three NHHIP segments for at least one year before starting construction.

  • TxDOT installed an air monitor along Segment 3 in August 2023, meaning it would have to wait until August 2024 to begin construction under the agreement.

Catch up quick: TxDOT was already in hot water with the MacGregor Super Neighborhood over the drainage project, which will install a storm sewer along Texas 288 from North MacGregor Way to Interstate 69.

  • Organizers with Stop TxDOT I-45 said the department attempted to start construction in February without giving notice to neighborhood and city leaders.
  • After two town halls with the super neighborhood that month, TxDOT delayed construction, which started on Monday.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent to TxDOT on March 27, Stop TxDOT I-45 and the MacGregor Super Neighborhood urged the department to "immediately halt" the construction planned for April 1 and said state documents prove the Texas 288 project is associated with the NHHIP.

The other side: Raynese Edwards, a PR consultant representing TxDOT on the Texas 288 job, told Axios the NHHIP reference in the transportation program was "done in error due [to] it being in the Brays Bayou watershed, which is the same watershed as the NHHIP Project 3A."

  • "The drainage improvements function independently from a drainage perspective from the NHHIP," Edwards said.

However, Stop TxDOT I-45 also says schematics of the Texas 288 drainage project show stormwater runoff from the NHHIP's Segment 3A will feed into the upgraded drainage system along Texas 288 and that engineers relied on an NHHIP study to determine how to move forward with the Texas 288 project.

  • Edwards did not respond to follow-up inquiries about the NHHIP references in the schematics.

What they're saying: "To claim [the Texas 288 drainage project] is not a part of the NHHIP is an abject lie," Stop TxDOT I-45 said in a statement.

What's next: Construction is expected to last until summer 2027.

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