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Transportation Department halts Houston highway project, citing racial inequalities

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project is a proposed plan to widen I-45 at three different sections.

Updated: April 2, 2021 - 1:08pm

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The Transportation Department is halting the start of a highway expansion project in Houston, citing "government driven racial inequalities" that the Biden administration says go against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project is a proposed plan to widen I-45 at three different sections.

In February, the Texas transportation department completed an environmental review and found that the plan would have large impacts on the surrounding black and Hispanic communities, through which the highway already runs. About 1,000 homes and housing united would be displaced – along with 344 businesses, five places of worship and two schools, according to Politico

Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee approved the efforts by the federal Transportation Department and agency Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

"I think he was engaged, interested and fair," she said after speaking with Buttigieg. "And I think he was chagrined at federal dollars being used with such disregard of community views."

Buttigieg has pledged to focus his efforts on racial equity, previously citing "systemic racism" as a primary agency concern.

The federal government has cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act as justification for the project's halt.

“No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," the Civil Rights Act reads.