Biden admin issues major civil rights victory in Texas: report

On Thursday, POLITICO reported that President Joe Biden's administration is temporarily suspending a freeway project in Houston, Texas on civil rights grounds.

"DOT's intervention follows complaints from local activists that the state's proposed widening of Interstate 45 would displace an overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic community, including schools, places of worship and more than 1,000 homes and businesses," reported Sam Mintz.

"Known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, the proposal would widen I-45 in three sections. TxDOT's environmental review of the project, completed in February, 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," said the report. "Local activists say the communities that would be harmed are disproportionately home to Black and Hispanic residents. And the impacts go beyond the direct displacements: Twenty-six schools would be brought within 500 feet of the highway, increasing children's exposure to pollution in a metropolitan area that's already rife with car exhaust."

Activists have put forward an alternate proposal that "has a narrower footprint and allows for transit," according to the report, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has accused TxDOT of failing to include a proper environmental review.

"Federal officials could ultimately allow the project to proceed, but the action to freeze it at all, and in particular DOT's use of civil rights laws to underpin that decision, has buoyed activists on the ground and surprised even seasoned regulators in Washington," noted the report.

The decision comes as the administration is rolling out a sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure proposal that includes upgrades to highways and mass transit, affordable housing, and green technology. Republicans are unifying against the proposal, raising the possibility that, like the COVID-19 stimulus, it may need to pass under reconciliation rules.