State transportation officials Tuesday held a final public meeting about a $320 million proposed expansion of Interstate 45 scheduled to begin next year.
The expansion project proposes reconstructing and widening the interstate for about 10 miles from FM 1764 to just north of the Galveston Causeway, Texas Department of Transportation officials said.
Construction on the project would begin sometime in 2019 and include widening the six-lane interstate to eight lanes, along with rebuilding frontage roads, officials said.
While city officials had previously been concerned about the loss of businesses and business interruption from the project, the main concerns among residents at the meeting Tuesday at La Marque High School were about noise, drainage and the fact the project would move the highway closer to their homes and businesses.
“Our house is facing Interstate 45,” La Marque resident Danny Barnes said. “We are not opposed to this. Because of the increase in lanes and such, we want something to protect us from the noise.”
Noise barriers would be possible near several subdivisions along the interstate, said Sonny Kaiser, a planner with the firm Ecosystem Planning and Restoration, which is assisting the state with the project.
Resident Joanna Sharp said she wanted assurances the project wouldn’t make flooding a bigger problem in her neighborhood.
“They are actually going to bring the road closer to us,” she said. “We want to make sure they upgrade their drainage areas. We want to make sure that they adjust for the elevation and the drainage so it doesn’t affect our roads and our houses.”
Likewise, resident Mary Tarlton was worried about how the project would affect her mother’s house.
“They’re going to take the road even closer to her house,” she said. “I think they should do the widening and I’m not trying to stop progress. At the same time, I’m really worried about her safety.”
With the hearing done, the next steps will be to finalize an environmental analysis, complete a final design and begin buying rights of way for the expansion, transportation department spokesman Danny Perez said.
The plan would require about 20 acres of right of way in La Marque between FM 1764 and the Galveston Causeway, officials have previously said. The plan also calls for construction of new detention ponds, according to the department.
Property owners along I-45 would all be affected differently, depending on the amount of right of way the state needs and how far structures are set back from the property line, state officials have said.
But generally speaking, businesses affected by right of way acquisition would go into negotiations with the state over fair market value of the property and could recoup damages associated with the move, including reconstruction costs if a new building needed to be built, state officials have said.
The transportation agency expects to go out for a contract on the project in 2019.
“We want to make sure we keep traffic flowing for the next 10 or 20 years,” Perez said. “We have to keep up with the demand that we are seeing down here in Galveston County.”