On March 30, 2021, Fred Wagner was quoted in Politico on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) invocation of the Civil Rights Act to pause a highway project near Houston. DOT’s intervention comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has identified racial equity as a major priority for his department.
According to the article, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project would widen I-45 in three sections. The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) environmental review of the project found it would have a massive impact on the communities it would roll through, displacing more than 1,000 homes and housing units, 344 businesses, five places of worship, and two schools. Local activists say the communities that would be harmed are disproportionately home to black and Hispanic residents.
The Houston project, with its promises of displacement and disenfranchisement echoing the destructive historic highway building that Buttigieg has repeatedly cited, is a test case for Buttigieg, Wagner said. “It’s going to be the first kind of test of the new administration to demonstrate how it’s going to apply its standards for more equitable transportation on a megaproject like this,” he said.
The project has been in the works for years. So "for DOT to step in, potentially, and say 'We don’t think it’s an appropriate solution,' would be a really huge deal,” Wagner added.