On Thursday, June 13th, LSLA community partner Air Alliance Houston held a press conference announcing a report on a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that considers the wide-ranging health impacts of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)’s proposed I-45 expansion project, also known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), on communities along the I-45 N corridor.

Pointing to the inequitable and unsustainable nature of freeway expansions that have already seriously impacted the health and welfare of communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, Director of Air Alliance Houston, Bakeyah Nelson, PhD, urged TxDOT to include the HIA recommendations in the agency’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). “If this project moves forward as currently designed, and the projected increases in traffic along the corridor are accurate, TxDOT should mitigate for the potentially adverse health impacts to the children and communities that are expected to bear the burden of commuter convenience,” said Nelson. Those adverse health impacts would be great, according to the HIA report. To give an example, children at Bruce Elementary, one of nine schools studied, would experience as much as a 164.7 % increase in exposure to benzene, a known carcinogen.

“Equally important is for TxDOT to discontinue the legacy of treating communities of color and low-income neighborhoods as collateral damage. As freeways continue to widen and gnaw at the fringes of our city’s neighborhoods, they displace residents and destroy the historical, cultural landmarks of our city’s most vulnerable communities,” Nelson added.

Addressing those losses, Director of Independence Heights Redevelopment Council (IHRC) Tanya Debose thanked Lone Star Legal Aid’s Amy Dinn for her assistance in filing a response to TxDOT’s supplemental report on projected impacts to historical resources, which omitted Independence Heights. “Most communities of color don’t have the resources to hire consultants – we don’t have the wherewithal to know all of those details in (TxDOT’s) reports that we don’t understand, and sometimes don’t even get a chance to read,” said Debose.

Continuing to advocate for Independence Heights on this issue, LSLA’s Dinn will give a community presentation with regard to the NHHIP’s impacts to historical resources in Independence Heights on Saturday, June 22nd along with one of the Environmental Justice team’s newest staff members, historian Aimee von Bokel, PhD.

View a video of the June 13th press conference here (Debose’s remarks begin at 19:44).

Read the HIA and one-page summary of the HIA from Air Alliance Houston here.