Roosevelt Elementary and Jefferson Elementary are located across 610 from each other on the east side of I-45. Jefferson Elementary is exposed to more than 5 times the Vehicle Miles Travelled/square mile as an average HISD/AISD campus. Jefferson: 55,292. HISD/AISD Average: 10,124.
The expansion would double the width of the highway in some areas and add several more lanes, bringing at least 26 existing school campuses within 500 feet of the freeway, including Jefferson and Roosevelt. The increased volume of traffic anticipated will introduce more air and noise pollutants into the communities near the highway. These pollutants are linked to poorer student and community health (exacerbating heart disease, respiratory diseases like asthma, and cognitive function), causing more sick days from work and school, reduced academic performance, shorter lifespans, and lower quality of life. Furthermore, a number of traffic-related air pollutants – such as diesel particulate matter, benzene, 1,3 butadiene, and formaldehyde – are known to cause cancer.
Children attending schools near high traffic areas are some of the most exposed and vulnerable populations to traffic-related pollution due to their developing brain, lungs, heart, and circulatory systems. They receive even more exposure if they’re active outside during high traffic times.
Poverty rates and representation of people of color are higher in -the neighborhood surrounding Roosevelt Elementary than Houston as a whole. The poverty rate is 52% in the Roosevelt neighborhood, compared with 43.2% in Houston. The percentage of persons of color is 94% in the Roosevelt neighborhood, compared with 73.7% in Houston. Of the three segments, the affluent Segment 3 (Downtown) shows considerable differences in strategies for mitigation than the other two segments; negative impacts of the highway could disproportionately fall on low-income communities of color.
13 pedestrian and bicycle crashes have occurred within a 1⁄2 mile -of Jefferson Elementary since 2010. All of them are located on the two streets students use to walk across the freeway: Link and Cavalcade. Most of the 21 ped/bike crashes near Roosevelt have taken place under or next to the freeway. The NHHIP design will expand the width of the freeway and increase the speed of cars traveling down the access road, increasing safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists
The expansion will construct more impermeable concrete surfaces, which could increase flood risk and the urban heat island effect. Jefferson Elementary is currently ranked among the top 9 percent of areas in Houston that are most likely to experience dangerous urban heat island effects. Both schools are located in the floodplain, which crosses the freeway from Little White Oak Bayou along the two streets students use to cross the freeway.