Nearly two decades: The long, long journey ahead for $9.7B rebuild of I-45

By Dug Begley, Transportation writer for the Houston Chronicle

Often called a once-in-a-generation project, the planned $9.7 billion-plus rebuild of Interstate 45 from downtown Houston north to Beltway 8, including a total reconstruction of the downtown freeway system, is expected to take a generation to build.

A child born today would drive along the completed freeway around the time they graduate from high school in 2042, according to a new schedule released by state highway officials.

“Just kill me now,” joked Reuben Shuvalov, 42, who commutes to an accounting job in downtown Houston from his home in Spring.

Cleared for development following a two-year pause and lifting of a lawsuit by Harris County, the Texas Department of Transportation is finalizing the sequence of construction across three segments, broken into at least 10 separate projects to remake portions of I-45, key intersections and nearby local streets. Officials updated the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council on April 28, including expected start and finish years.

The mega-project will add two managed lanes to I-45 from downtown north to Greenspoint, in addition to rebuilding the existing interstate and five major freeway interchanges. The project will move I-45 to the east side of the central business district, following Interstate 10 and Interstate 69 around downtown, at times burying the freeway lanes.

In three areas — Midtown near Wheeler, through EaDo near the George R. Brown Convention Center and at North Main Street on the North Side — the design allows for greenspaces or caps over the freeway to help stitch neighborhoods long-divided by the freeways back together.

To drivers, the order of construction, however, may look scattered.

“That is just how the development of how the plans are coming along,” said Varuna Singh, deputy district engineer for TxDOT’s Houston office.

Work will be phased based on numerous factors, including funding, the need for some work to precede other parts of construction, and drainage in some spots prior to construction of depressed sections of the freeway on the east side of downtown.

As a result, the first project considered part of the larger rebuild is an $86.1 million project to upgrade drainage through EaDo, just east of Interstate 69 between I-45 south of downtown and Buffalo Bayou.

“The drainage is the first piece,” Singh said. “That is why we are trying to get it out the door.”

That work precedes construction south of downtown, where the first major project is the rebuilding of I-69 between Texas 288 and I-45, expected to cost $584.8 million and start in 2025. That rebuild, through the area where the two freeways converge, will take roughly five years, during which work will begin on nearby segments to Spur 527 and where I-10 and I-45 separate north of the central business district.

It is that 2027-2031 period when many of the projects will be active work zones that worries some about the effects on downtown jobs and businesses.

“Past freeway projects typically only affected one or two spokes at a time, and downtown employers just dealt with it since it only affected a portion of their employee base,” said Tory Gattis, a senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, which advocates for business-focused downtown development. “But with the normalization of remote and hybrid work, as well as this project affecting all the freeways coming into downtown, it could definitely be the tipping point to major employers following Exxon to the suburbs or just going more remote so their employees won’t have to fight their way downtown as often.”

Along with replacing segments of the aging freeway along I-45 and modernizing many of the 1970s-era interchange engineering, TxDOT agreed to various concessions as a compromise with skeptical federal and local officials.

In addition to bike lanes along local streets, efforts to better compensate lost housing around downtown and partner with agencies to keep more residents in the neighborhoods they call home and reduce property losses where possible, TxDOT is expected to hold semi-annual public meetings on the project where closings, detours and updates will be discussed. A website and active social media sites also are part of the strategy, Singh said.

Longtime critics of the project remain convinced more lanes will only worsen Houston’s traffic woes at the expense of more homes and permanent environmental damage to core communities because of increased pollution from more solo vehicle trips. Opponents said they will continue monitoring the project, as will local officials, even if that lasts years.

“The people who were going to be most impacted were least represented,” Susan Graham, an organizer with Stop TxDOT I-45, said during a March 16 announcement. “As this moves forward, we’ll be making sure what’s in this agreement is done, and maybe more.”

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Photo: Elizabeth Conley/Staff photographer for the Houston Chronicle

Construction to begin on Grand Parkway expansion to Alvin

By Deevon Rahming with KHOU 11

LEAGUE CITY, Texas — If you’ve lived in the Houston area long enough, you’re probably familiar with two things: growth and the Grand Parkway Transportation project.

It’s a project encompassing seven counties, spanning 184 miles. Roughly 100 of those miles are already complete.

The project will transform the state highway into a toll road, connecting the growth across the Houston area.

“So from I-10 East, you can continue going north, that can take you up all the way to I-69 and I-45 and if you wanted to take it all the way down to Katy, for example, you could do that without having to go into the core of the city,” explained Danny Perez, with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Of the 11 segments to the project, segment B-1, located in Alvin, was on full display Thursday night as construction on the next phase is expected to start.

“It would begin at I-45 the Gulf Freeway and it’ll come to Alvin on 35,” said Perez.

It’s the same area Alvin resident Daniel Castillo has called home for the last ten years.

“I actually own this piece of property right at this corner right there and I don’t know how,  I don’t know how it’s going to impact me,” said Castillo.

Leaders with the TxDOT want to get it right before shovels hit the ground.

“Any potential impacts to the community, whether it’s a residential or the business community, so we’re giving them the chance to see it now, provide some feedback and then we’ll take that feedback into consideration as we move forward with the project,” explained Perez.

Construction on the B-1 section from League City to Alvin is set to begin in the spring of 2027 and will take three years to complete.

If you weren’t able to make it out to Thursday’s presentation, TxDOT will have another opportunity for residents in the area to provide feedback on Tuesday, Oct. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lobit Elementary/Middle School cafeteria in Dickinson.

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Photo: KHOU 11

Austin’s I-35 expansion clears final hurdle before construction start

By Kelsey Thompson with KXAN

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation is poised to begin construction on its Interstate 35 Capital Expression Central project near downtown Austin, following approval of the project announced Monday.

TxDOT released a final environmental impact statement and record of decision, marking completion of environmental clearance as part of the National Environmental Policy Act. With that decision delivered, TxDOT’s I-35 Central project is slated to move into its final design and review phase before construction is anticipated to begin in mid-2024. Tucker Ferguson, TxDOT’s Austin district engineer, told KXAN Monday the state agency is eyeing a project launch in either March or April.

The I-35 Central project is an eight-mile project track running from U.S. Hwy. 290 East to SH 71 and Ben White Boulevard.

Project components include the addition of two non-tolled high-occupancy vehicle managed lanes in each direction along I-35, the removal of the upper decks and lowering of the I-35 main lanes between Airport Boulevard and Lady Bird Lake, as well as between Riverside Drive and Oltorf Street.

Project designs also call for “boulevard-style segments” running through downtown, in addition to pedestrian and cyclist path improvements.

TxDOT leadership called the decision “an important step toward bringing much needed congestion relief to central Texas.” TxDOT first launched a multi-year feasibility, environmental and design review process on the project back in 2020.

“The Central project represents years of hard work to develop safety and mobility enhancements that will benefit all users,” Ferguson said in a release. “It is a project that has seen a tremendous amount of community input, and one that we can say is designed in part by the community and for the community.”

Some changes to the project were made based on community feedback. Lowering the main lanes between Airport Boulevard and Lady Bird Lake, the removal of the upper decks, the opportunity for deck plazas funded by the City of Austin and widened east-west bridges with bicycle and pedestrian paths all came from community input.

Property displacements

Under the updated final EIS, TxDOT officials noted right-of-way acquisition for the planned expansion would result in 111 displacements:

  • 59 commercial properties
  • 51 residential properties
  • 1 property that is currently vacated

Of the 59 commercial properties impacted, eight of those are earmarked for serving specific specific communities, such as providing services for children, lower-income community members, non-white residents and Spanish speakers.

The project would require an additional 54.1 acres of right-of-way to support the expansion efforts. Roughly three acres will be used for construction staging throughout the decade-long construction, as well as approximately 25 acres along Lady Bird Lake and its shoreline to help store and move bridge-related construction equipment.

When looking at displacements by neighborhood, the Upper Boggy Creek/Cherrywood area is reported to have the largest impact, with 22 commercial displacements and 25 residential ones. That neighborhood joins the North Loop, Windsor Park and Hancock areas as accounting for the majority of property displacements.

Ferguson told KXAN Monday the state agency is going through its right-of-way relocation program with displaced properties. That program will assist property owners with relocation efforts and offer just compensation as part of the forced move.

For owner-occupant displacements, TxDOT said it will provide property owners with a relocation notification package and assign a relocation assistance counselor to the property, Property owners have a minimum of 90 days from date of written notice before TxDOT would require access to the property, per the final EIS.

For tenant-occupant displacements, they will also be assigned a relocation assistance counselor and receive a booklet on tenant entitlements, Tenants also have a minimum of 90 days from date of written notice before TxDOT would acquire the property.

Residential displacements will require compensation to any person whose property needs to be acquired, with TxDOT adding it will provide reimbursement of moving costs and certain expenses accumulated during the moving process. TxDOT will also assist in finding comparable replacement housing for residential displacements, per the final EIS.

Non-residential displacements will receive a relocation assistance counselor’s help in assisting with relocation planning, with TxDOT exploring possible funding assistance for impacted properties via local, state and federal agencies.

Medical facilities earmarked for displacement include the CommUnityCare – David Powell Health Center, the CommUnityCare – Hancock Walk-In Care and the Austin Medical Building, which comprises several individual medical offices.

On the residential displacement front, the 24 units at The Avalon Apartments are slated for displacement, while the 22 units at the Village at 47th are impacted.

“I-35 is a critical corridor through Austin for those who live along the corridor, as well as those who commute for work or leisure,” TxDOT officials wrote in the final EIS. “There is a need and desire to preserve the character, community, and facilities in east Austin and to ensure the historically low-income and minority community residents remain.”

Esperanza Community expansion

With possible service interruptions for people experiencing homelessness courtesy of I-35’s expansion downtown, TxDOT is working to expand capacity at the Esperanza Community. The five-acre homelessness camp, located northwest of the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 183 and SH 71, provides access to health and safety amenities.

In June 2021, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a 10-year lease agreement between TxDOT and The Other Ones Foundation to operate the Esperanza Community. The current site houses 200 people, and TxDOT noted in the final EIS it is aiming to double that capacity.

“We’re looking at opportunities to duplicate that or replicate that in a location for additional folks who may be displaced by this project,” Ferguson said.

Officials react to final EIS, record of decision

Following news of the approval for TxDOT’s I-35 project proposal, several local and area leaders shared their thoughts on the advancement in the project. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson acknowledged a decade-long history of project development behind the I-35 Central expansion and celebrated the elimination of the upper decks of I-35 and addressing mobility needs.

“For more than a decade, we’ve worked with TxDOT and state leaders to design a project that addresses Austin’s mobility needs and reflects our values. We wanted to reduce congestion and increase mobility for cars and trucks as well as creating greater opportunities for efficient transit in managed lanes. We wanted to connect — to reconnect — our community both physically and figuratively by tearing down a concrete barrier that’s divided our home for generations. We wanted to improve safety and better accommodate light rail and bus routes downtown. We wanted to enhance bike and pedestrian use and reduce pollutants running into Lady Bird Lake.

We’ve achieved these goals, in large part due to the strong community voices that have focused on making this project better. We’ve achieved these goals by recognizing that we would never meet everyone’s concept of perfection and that there is no project of this nature and scope that can be perfect. But it will be a great improvement and much better than what we have.

The elimination of the upper decks on I-35 and the lowering of the main lanes from Airport Boulevard to Oltorf Street will have a transformative effect on our community. While that’s a positive change to what we have now, there is the opportunity to do even more to realize the full potential of this generational investment by capping large portions of I-35 through downtown. Our challenge now is finding a creative way to pay for it.”


State. Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) said in a statement Austin should be prioritizing “a robust public transportation infrastructure” as opposed to a highway expansion. In her statement, she did commend community-backed initiatives incorporated into the final project design, including:

  • Support structures for the development of an additional cap/deck plaza between 38 1/2 Street and Airport Boulevard
  • Affordable housing mitigation and business displacement assistance
  • Expansion of the Esperanza Community by doubling its capacity from 200 beds to 400 beds
  • Stormwater treatment ponds and runoff collection
  • Boardwalk segment over Lady Bird Lake near the Hyatt Regency Hotel “to connect to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail”

“A rapidly growing Austin requires a robust public transportation infrastructure that does
not currently exist and that is, unfortunately, not the focus of TxDOT’s current project. For
this reason, I join the chorus of involved Austin constituents advocating for greater
investment in public transportation as opposed to a widened highway,” Hinojosa’s statement read in part. “Notwithstanding, I value the significant time and effort TxDOT has spent listening to our community to improve this project.”

State Rep. Sheryl Cole shared a statement on Instagram Monday acknowledging her reservations with the project. She referenced her work alongside other members of the Travis County Delegation, who’ve met with stakeholders and community advocates regarding the project.

She did note in her statement changes to the project “consistent with Austin values,” and credited Watson with work he’s done since his tenure in the Texas Senate. However, she cited continuous concerns on minority-owned business displacements, air and water quality impacts and safety related to the plan.

“There have been significant concerns expressed by community stakeholders regarding this project especially related to minority-owned business displacement, bike/pedestrian lanes, safety, improving air and water quality, urban design, and community engagement,” Cole’s statement read in part. “TxDOT has assured us that they are committed to rental relocation assistance within a mile of the original property for businesses that will be impacted by this project. TxDOT has continued to emphasize that there will be a large number of bike and pedestrian lanes in this project.”

Photo: (Courtesy: Texas Department of Transportation) / KXAN

$88M Settlement Approved for “Critical” Austin Airport Expansion

By Grace Reader and Andrew Schnitker

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council approved an $88 million settlement agreement with LoneStar Holdings, the group that operates the airport’s South Terminal, for a lawsuit in Travis County District Court and another in federal court.

The agreement allows Austin-Bergstrom International Airport the ability to move forward with its expansion and redevelopment program, according to an AUS press release.

As part of its expansion plans for AUS, the city decided last June to use eminent domain to take over the property near the main terminal where the South Terminal sits.

The city agreed to a 40-year deal with Lonestar in March 2016 and then in June 2022 offered to pay the group $1.9 million, which Lonestar denied, citing the amount it took to renovate the South Terminal. As a result, the company filed a lawsuit against the city last August.

“Item 35 on the June 1 Austin City Council agenda authorizes a process and airport funding for a settlement with LoneStar Airport Holdings, LLC. The settlement brings a resolution to the South Terminal dispute and is necessary for moving forward with improving and modernizing the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport through the Airport Expansion & Development Program,” a spokesperson for the airport said.

In the release, AUS called the acquisition of the South Terminal facility a “critical milestone” in the project.

“A critical component of the expansion and development program is a new midfield concourse and supporting infrastructure, such as a new connector tunnel to the main terminal and new taxiways, which requires the removal of the South Terminal facility and 30 other vacant airport-owned buildings. Building removal for the additional 30 structures is currently underway,” the release said.

An AUS spokesperson also noted that the money for the lawsuit came from the Department of Aviation’s operating fund.

“This fund is separate from the City of Austin’s general fund and does not receive any Austin taxpayer dollars,” the city said.

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Photo: Mikala Compton/American-Statesman

Austin Ordered to Pay South Terminal Operator $90 Million in Eminent Domain Fight at ABIA

By Nathan Bernier

The City of Austin should pay $90 million to evict the company running the South Terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, a panel of special commissioners ordered in Travis County Probate Court.

The amount awarded by the special commissioners — three landowners with no stake in the deal who were appointed by a judge — is 46 times what the city had originally offered Lonestar Airport Holdings.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary result,” said David Todd, an eminent domain attorney in Austin.

The South Terminal — where discount airlines Allegiant and Frontier operate — is a much smaller facility than the main Barbara Jordan Terminal at ABIA. The South Terminal has three gates, food trucks, and indoor and outdoor waiting areas.

Lonestar Airport Holdings was granted a minimum 30-year lease of the South Terminal in 2016. The deal allows for two optional five-year extensions. Lonestar claims to have invested almost $20 million since taking over the terminal.

Austin airport officials, with the blessing of the City Council, want to demolish the South Terminal to create space for a new concourse with at least 10 gates. The concourse would be connected to the Barbara Jordan Terminal by an underground pedestrian tunnel.

In a statement, the city didn’t say whether it would pay the $90 million or object to the valuation. Either side can dispute the award in civil court.

The $90 million decision “furthers the airport’s mission to deliver critical improvements and modernization projects needed to support increased passenger and airline activity,” the airport said in a statement. ABIA said it would not make anyone available for an interview or answer further questions.

Lonestar Airport Holdings CEO Jeff Pearse said in a statement that he’s pleased with the $90 million award and wants to reach an “amicable” deal with the city to “avoid ongoing, costly and unnecessary litigation.”

Eminent domain attorney Luke Ellis, who also teaches at the University of Texas Law School, said the use of eminent domain by a government authority to terminate a contract is “very unusual.”

“It’s essentially akin to the city trying to condemn its way out of obligations and agreements. I think that’s terrible,” Ellis said. “If the city were to prevail here, I think it would discourage and dissuade future private businesses from partnering with the city.”

The city is already moving to bulldoze every building around the South Terminal. Demolition companies were invited in December to bid on an estimated $6.5 million contract to destroy 39 buildings. Six companies have bid.

Meanwhile, a separate case is playing out in federal court.

Lonestar Airport Holdings sued the city, alleging a provision of its lease allows the company the exclusive first right to be involved in any airport expansion.

In federal court filings, Lonestar says it was willing to make a “significant up-front investment” in the South Terminal only because the length of the lease would give the company a chance to recoup its investment.

Attorneys for the city countered in federal court filings that Lonestar’s lease allowed the company to be involved in the airport expansion only if the city agreed.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman last month denied Lonestar’s request for a temporary halt to the airport expansion while the lawsuit proceeds.

Pitman ruled Lonestar would not suffer irreparable harm, because “monetary damages could remedy Lonestar’s alleged injury.”

Lonestar claimed in court filings it would prove the city directly cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Lonestar claims to have invested almost $50 million in the South Terminal. The figure is nearly $20 million.

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Photo: Gabriel C. Pérez, KUT


Deal Sikes provided real property valuation, counseling and expert testimony on behalf of the property owner in this matter.

US 380 widening project in Frisco to move forward in 2023

By Miranda Jaimes, Managing Editor for Community Impact

A project to widen US 380 in Frisco is expected to move forward in 2023.

In spring 2022 environmental assessment began on a project the Texas Department of Transportation would conduct that would widen US 380 from Teel Parkway to west of Lakewood Drive in Collin County. Environmental assessments are necessary to minimize effects of TxDOT projects to both nature and humans.

If there are no major issues from the environmental analysis that cannot be addressed in a reasonable time frame, final environmental clearance for the project is expected in spring 2023, according to a TxDOT presentation.

The project would widen the 5.9-mile stretch of US 380 and reconstruct the road to a 12-foot-wide, six-lane divided highway with two- to three-lane continuous frontage roads. The project would also allow for drainage improvements, ramps to provide accessibility, interchange improvements and sidewalks along both sides of the highway.

US 380’s capacity is exceeded due to the rapid growth in both Denton and Collin counties, according to the TxDOT presentation. This leads to increased congestion, reduced mobility and higher crash rates compared to other similar roadways in the region, the presentation stated.

US 380 in Frisco and Denton County is already under construction. Crews are working between Teel Parkway and Mahard Drive. Once the construction is completed, the existing US 380 roadway within the proposed project limits will be a six-lane divided roadway with a raised center median, two-foot-wide inside and outside shoulders, and curb and gutter.

This part of the work on US 380 is expected to be completed in 2025.

Once the environmental clearance is granted for the project to reconstruct the road to six lanes each direction, TxDOT will begin acquiring the property needed in the area to build the widened road and find funds for the $630 million project.

The department expects to start accepting bids to construct the project in 2026, with construction following shortly.

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Photo: Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact

Ruling Could Set Hefty Price Toward Properties Flooded Above Barker, Addicks Reservoirs During Harvey

By John Wayne Ferguson

More than five years after their homes and businesses were flooded, residents above the Addicks and Barker dams are learning how much money the federal government owes them for damage from Houston’s overflowing reservoirs.

A federal judge last week ruled that the owners of six upstream properties flooded during Hurricane Harvey should collectively receive nearly $550,000. The six were chosen — jointly by Justice Department lawyers and attorneys for hundreds of property owners  — as test cases in a massive case initiated just moths after the historic deluge.

The decision could open the door to thousands more judgments for property owners and could result in the government paying out tens of millions more dollars, attorneys for the flooded residents said Wednesday.

The case falls under a special jurisdiction that oversees so called “takings” cases, involving allegations the government temporarily took control of private land for a legitimate purpose. If the court’s ruling survives anticipated appeals by the Justice Department, it could become the largest government takings case in U.S. history, according to attorneys representing property owners.

A ruling is still pending for separate group of residents and business owners whose properties flooded when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Addicks and Barker floodgates. The downstream property owners saw their claims dismissed in 2020, but in June a federal appeals court reversed the dismissal and remanded it to the lower court for further proceedings.

Starting Aug. 28, 2017, and lasting four days, Hurricane Harvey unleashed historic amounts of rain over the Houston area. The decades-old flood reservoirs  on either side of Interstate 10 became dangerously full. The floodwater they retained caused widespread flooding of homes and businesses on the far-west outreaches of the Houston region.

After the storm, more than 1,600 businesses and homeowners sued the Army Corps in the specialized U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., contending the government intentionally planned for the reservoirs to flood their land. In 2019, U.S. Judge Charles F. Lettow ruled government officials had knowingly and intentionally used private property to store rising floodwaters.

Then, in separate hearings, Lettow set about assessing how much money these property owners were owed. On Oct. 28, Lettow ruled on damages, laying out explicitly how much some property owners were owed for decreases in their property values, the damage or destruction of their personal property and the costs of being displaced by the floods.

“The plaintiffs are entitled to just compensation for the permanent flowage easement the government took through its construction, maintenance, and operation of the Addicks and Barker Dams,” Lettow wrote.

The six property owners included homeowners and owners of rental properties. The decision in these test cases will trigger a process for Lettow to assess how much compensation property owners might be owed in thousands of other complaints. If Lettow’s standard is applied to all the upstream homes and businesses believed to be flooded, the total compensation would top $1 billion, according to Daniel Charest, a lead attorney for the upstream plaintiffs.

Charest said he expected the Department of Justice to file an appeal within the next 60 days and will likely challenge property owners’ rights to damages.

For the six test properties in Katy and Houston, Lettow gave out vastly differing sums: one family, he said, should be awarded $195,000 because of the damage to their home. Another plaintiff was awarded $1,401, according to court records.

The property owners who received the largest award saw their home on Kelliwood Manor Lane in Katy flooded by more than a foot of water for four days. The person with the smallest award experienced no flooding in her Katy home, but she had damage to her garage, according to court documents.

Vuk Vujasinovic, an attorney with the law firm VB Attorneys and a lead counsel in the lawsuit, said attorneys and their clients were still working to process what Lettow’s decision would mean in their individual situations. Vujasinovic said there was a “wide variance” in the awards for the plaintiffs in the test case, and that Lettow had “split the baby” in his decision.

“Every case is going to be individual, based on what happened in their house, but as a general matter, we’re going to study the methods by which the judge awarded these monies and apply it to all our our clients across the board,” Vujasinovic said.

The difference in the damages was largely based on structural flooding, attorneys said. Properties that had significant flooding got more money and places with less damage got less, he said. Renters also appear to be in line to receive less compensation for their losses.

“By and large, a majority of the claimants should be happy with the result,” said Charest, one of the lead counsels.

On average, the six plaintiffs received compensation of about $130 per square foot of flooded interior, according to a press release from his law firm, Burns Charest LLP.

“I am grateful that we have achieved this result after so much effort,” said Charest. “These awards will be a huge help for our clients. I hope this result can help achieve as good or better results for the other upstream flood victims going forward.”

Lawyers for flood victims have estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 properties upstream of the reservoirs were damaged during Harvey.

Being on the witness stand in a case was an emotional experience for the test case plaintiffs.

“I felt like I represented thousands, and I could feel the weight of that as I testified,” said Elizabeth Burnham, a test case plaintiff who was flooded in Bear Creek. “I wanted to do well for myself, but it was definitely nerve-wracking, because I knew there were many more people that depended on me doing a good job.”

Burnham sold her home to an investor after the storm and moved, but she said she still feels scared of flooding because of what happened during Harvey.

“I can’t sleep at night in a heavy rainstorm, because I have to check the road to make sure it’s not going to flood our new house,” Burnham said.

Burnham declined to comment about the size of the judgment because of possible future appeals.

Attorneys representing the federal government didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Charest and other law firms are encouraging property owners upstream of the dams to file claims before the statute of limitations passes next year on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.

“The six-year anniversary of Harvey is August 2023,” Charest said. “I’m telling everyone that will listen to me to please get the word out that they need to get a claim on file. They can do it themselves, they can hire a lawyer, I don’t care. What I don’t want to see is the government take this property interest and do this harm and not be held accountable.”

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Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle

$550M Katy Freeway TxDOT project to span three area counties

By Asia Armour, Features Reporter with Community Impact

A $550 million proposed project to widen about 13 miles of the Katy Freeway, also known as I-10, is one step closer. The planned project will start at FM 359 in Waller County, passing through Fort Bend County and end at Mason Road in Harris County.

In June and July, the Texas Department of Transportation conducted a hearing on the project, which aims to improve mobility and safety in the area. TxDOT officials said they anticipate a nearly 40% increase in area traffic between 2025 and 2045.

During a July presentation, Lauren Munoz, a public involvement expert for the project, cited the rate of crashes in this area as higher than average for similar Texas highways, especially at Mason Road, Grand Parkway, Katy Fort Bend Road and FM 359.

To improve capacity, the TxDOT project team suggests adding two lanes and two general-purpose lanes from FM 359 to Hwy. 90 and extending frontage roads from Pederson Road to Hwy. 90. TxDOT will also add exit and entrance ramps from Pederson Road to Cane Island Parkway. TxDOT also proposed restriping from Hwy. 90 to Mason Road to add two lanes.

TxDOT also suggested multimodal improvements, such as 10-foot side paths for bicycles and pedestrians from Pederson Road to Hwy. 90, as well as expanding the right of way where reconstruction or drainage is needed, such as 12 acres for a potential detention pond east of Marino Road.

The next step in the implementation process is finalizing plans and curating environmental impact documents for review. Because the project is state- and federally funded, TxDOT is required to assess the potential impacts on the environment in accordance with federal standards, which includes public outreach efforts.

Pending the review, TxDOT will begin right-of-way acquisition in summer 2023 and construction will start fall 2023. The duration of the work has yet to be determined, but George said it will be completed in three or four phases, moving east to west.

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Photo: Community Impact

TxDOT considering changes to Broadway Street widening project

By Andy Yanez with Community Impact

There could soon be changes to the original federally approved design to widen FM 518, better known as Broadway Street, in Pearland.

The Texas Department of Transportation from April 26-May 13 collected public input on a proposed change to the Broadway Street widening project from Cullen Parkway to Hwy. 35 in Pearland. TxDOT aims to make a decision based on the public input by the summer and begin a detailed design for the project toward the end of the year.

“The project is needed because current and projected growth in the area has caused traffic demand to increase,” said Daisy Orona, bilingual communication specialist for Stantec, a design and consulting company working with TxDOT on the project.

The original design included widening Broadway Street from four to six lanes between Hwy. 288 and Hwy. 35. The project is going to be broken down in two phases: Hwy. 288 to Cullen Parkway for Phase 1, which is set to begin construction in 2025 and cost $88 million, and Cullen Parkway to Hwy. 35 for Phase 2.

The changes to Phase 2 include acquiring less right of way for the expansion, constructing three 11-foot-wide lanes on each side of the thoroughfare, and creating sidewalks on the north and south sides of Broadway Street.

TxDOT originally planned to acquire more right of way and build two 12-foot lanes and one 15-foot shared lane for cars and bicycles on each side of Broadway.

“Based on public comments and discussions with the city of Pearland, TxDOT decided to revisit the design for … FM 518,” Orona said.

While the proposed changes to Phase 2 of the Broadway Street expansion are projected to affect fewer parcels in the city, it could potentially displace more properties because of the addition of the pedestrian path that was originally planned to be a shared lane with cars, Orona said. TxDOT will offer financial assistance to residences and businesses displaced due to federal law.

The estimated construction cost for Phase 2 of the project is $44 million, Orona said. A timeline for construction has yet to be set.

Hwy. 6 reconstruction

The Texas Department of Transportation is overseeing the construction of an asphalt concrete pavement overlay and installation of traffic signals, signings and pavement markings from CR 99 to Second Street, also known as Brazos Street, in Alvin, TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez said. The work was needed to repair the road and improve the pavement’s lifespan and ride quality, he added.

Timeline: September 2021-August 2022

Cost: $5.3 million

Funding source: state funds

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Texas Supreme Court Rejects State of Texas Bid to Overturn $28.8M Harris County Jury Verdict for CC Telge Road, LP

By Vinson & Elkins Law

In a unanimous opinion issued on May 28, 2020, the Houston First Court of Appeals affirmed in all aspects a February 2018 jury verdict in favor of CC Telge. As referenced in the opinion, at trial, the State argued it owed compensation of $1.3 million and CC Telge requested $28.8 million from the jury. The Texas Lawbook reported this to be the highest jury verdict ever for a property owner in a Texas condemnation case (The Texas Lawbook, February 7, 2018).

The State filed a Petition for Review with the Texas Supreme Court in November 2020 and on March 5, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court denied the Petition for Review.

There is a team of V&E lawyers and staff who participated in this case during pre-trial discovery, trial and on appeal. The trial lawyers were Donny Griffin and Billy Dyer with assistance from Cathy Smith on appellate issues.

Read more about the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Law360.

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