The District’s involvement with TXDOT is as a governmental “participating agency,” which dates to the project’s first round of public meetings in October 2012. The District has been instrumental in convening adjacent Management Districts and major stakeholders as bold concepts for highway alignment are under consideration, with the reconnection of adjacent neighborhoods and the restoration of the urban street grid the end-goal of Downtown.
The largest modification is the re-alignment of IH-45 from the current west and south edges of Downtown to a shared right-of-way with IH-10 on the north side and then turning to a shared right-of-way with IH-69 on the east side. This eastern segment where IH-45 and IH-69 are combined is proposed to be a trenched highway section with east-west connecting bridges over the highways and a potential 10-block civic space or “cap park” at grade from Commerce Street to at least Lamar Street, and possibly Polk Street. This realignment also results in the removal of the infamous Pierce Elevated which has long been a barrier between Downtown and Midtown. On the western edge of Downtown, the existing IH-45 will be dismantled and a consolidated set of highway connectors is proposed, functioning as a new Downtown Spur. On the northern side of Downtown, IH-45 and IH-10 are proposed to shift northward to consolidate highway and freight rail in adjacent rights-of-way, thereby providing opportunity to restore grid connectivity and unify development that has long been bifurcated by rail, highway and bayou infrastructure.
The highway project will be years in the making, but the opportunities to consolidate and straighten infrastructure while maintaining or improving access to Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods is the promise of this bold plan. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on the leading edge of infrastructure of this magnitude. It is an attainable goal that Downtown can be better served by the future highway system and establish a new reputation for integrating visionary urban design with transportation planning.