Supporters of I-45 expansion assess TxDOT panel premises, organizers say

An upcoming dollar-rich luncheon featuring a panel of Texas Department of Transportation officials at the Omni Hotel in Houston is angering community advocates who say the public should have free access to those in power.

The Houston-based Transportation Advocacy Group (TAG) is hosting its state of TxDOT discussion on Thursday with Laura Ryan, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, and Eliza Paul, TxDOT engineer for the District of Houston. Ryan and Paul will discuss “TxDOT’s incredible work for the past year and bold planning for the future,” according to the TAG website. Tickets for the lunch and discussion cost $ 160 for the general public and $ 85 for TAG members.

TAG is a major proponent of TxDOT’s controversial North Houston Freeway Improvement Project, which will force more than 1,000 families from their homes across a prominent estate. The project will widen Interstate 45 from downtown to North Beltway 8 and reorient the freeway around downtown.

The price of admission is just one element of the meeting frustrating supporters of the Stop TxDOT I-45 campaign, who scheduled a counter-discussion titled “The True State of TxDOT” just an hour before the event. Thursday’s TAG. Members at stop 45 will gather in a park near the hotel and head to the building entrance before lunch begins at 11:00 a.m.

Community advocates have protested against NHHIP for years.

Godofredo A. Vásquez / Personal photographer

“The epicenter for all of us is who can tell the story of TxDOT? TAG and TxDOT are doing this very expensive fundraiser that you have to pay huge sums of money to to tell this story, ”said Ally Smither, organizer with Stop TxDOT I-45. “They are exploiting the people that TxDOT’s negative plans will affect. It is very unfair.”

Andrea French, executive director of TAG Houston, defended the high ticket prices, citing the location as one of the reasons for charging so much.

“I think people are paying attention to the fact that we’ve been doing these things for the last 10 years,” French said. “We can’t have a free event at the Omni, it’s just not something we can do with our budget, certainly not multiple events a year. We need to charge something to cover the cost of hosting a lunch. a perception that we are bigger and richer than we are, and that is just not true.

“I understand,” French said. “I understand what the optics look like.”

The Texas Transportation Commission, of which Ryan is a member, voted unanimously to go ahead with funding for the I-45 expansion project. He is currently on hold after the federal government intervened to investigate potential civil rights violations related to how current plans almost exclusively target communities of color, according to Kennedy Sessions in Texas Signal.

Plans for the North Houston Freeway Improvement Project include the foreclosure of more than 1,000 homes and several businesses and churches for expansion.

Plans for the North Houston Freeway Improvement Project include the foreclosure of more than 1,000 homes and several businesses and churches for expansion.

Texas Department of Transportation

TAG explicitly advocates protecting TxDOT’s power to seize property via eminent domain, a tactic that has become a major point of contention for its opponents with Stop TxDOT I-45.

“We’re not saying we don’t want a project,” Smither said. “We want good transportation for Houston. We want fair projects that don’t widen the footprint, destroy people’s homes, or destroy historic properties in these communities. TAG (and TxDOT) have the ability to stand up for that and set a standard for the rest of the United States. They might be on the right side of history, but right now they’re not. “

The Stop TxDOT I-45 group will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Weiss Park before walking to the Omni Hotel. Tickets for the TAG lunch, which starts at 11 a.m., are available online.

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