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Chance of wider loop: "very slim"

The Houston Chronicle
March 13, 1992, Friday

The chances of expanding the West Loop to 24 lanes are ""very slim'' because of mounting citizen opposition, Mayor Bob Lanier said Thursday.

During his campaign for mayor last fall, Lanier said runoff opponent Sylvester Turner was willing to sacrifice up to 20,000 potential jobs by opposing the West Loop expansion, the West Side Airport, the Wallisville Reservoir and other environmentally sensitive projects. Lanier accused Turner of opposing the projects only to gain the endorsement of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. At the time, Lanier said he would remain open about expanding the West Loop between White Oak and Brays bayous.

But Thursday, Lanier, the former chairman of the Texas Highway Commission, said he doubts enough support could be generated to turn that segment into the world's widest freeway. "My sense of it is that the (state) highway department won't want to build it unless it has broad-based community support," Lanier said. "And I just don't see that support forming." Environmentalists, park advocates, joggers and neighborhood preservationists have protested the Texas Department of Transportation proposal.

The West Loop is already Houston's busiest freeway, with more than 225,000 cars a day using some stretches. Supporters of the widening plan say it would relieve traffic congestion and ultimately ease air pollution because traffic would not be so stop-and-go. But protesters say it would cut into 3 1/2 acres of Memorial Park, cause the loss of some homes and create added noise. City Councilman Vince Ryan, whose district includes part of the congested loop, said state officials should wait until the Southwest Freeway widening is completed before any decision on the West Loop.

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