At a special meeting of the Harris County Commissioners Court, the Court voted to direct Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee to negotiate a temporary stay of the county’s lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) over the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), which would widen I-45 at various points in and near downtown Houston to Beltway 8, displacing more than 1,000 homes.
“Commissioners Court has spoken, but I want to be clear that this temporary stay does not mean that we’ve dismissed our lawsuit, nor will it impact the federal government’s pause of the NHHIP,” said Harris County Attorney Menefee. “The county’s goal is the same as it’s always been—a project that addresses the concerns of communities and is in the best interest of Harris County residents. The pause is a show of good faith by the county to remind TxDOT that we’re in this to find solutions and address community concerns. We expect TxDOT to work alongside us to achieve the same. If that does not happen, the county will resume the suit and we’ll let the courts decide.”
County Attorney Menefee will negotiate the terms of the lawsuit pause with TxDOT. He is expected to propose a 30-day pause with the county having the option to extend it for another 30 days if the initial negotiations are fruitful. In the lawsuit, Harris County asserts that in designing the NHHIP, TxDOT failed to follow federal law and properly consider air quality, flood mitigation, and other impacts on communities, schools, etc. near the segments of the highway that will be widened.
TxDOT has been instructed to pause all activity related to the NHHIP by the Federal Highway Administration, which is investigating whether TxDOT complied with federal environmental and civil rights laws in designing the project.