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City of Houston Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan Explained

The City of Houston Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan (MTFP) is a map that identifies sections of roadways that are in need of expansion, either by lengthening or widening. Changes to MTFP can have a big impact on current and future developments, so it is important to understand the map and keep up with yearly updates.

To better understand the MTFP, it’s important to understand how Houston roads are classified into a road hierarchy. Once the roads are classified, decisions are made about which roads to widen (including ROW taking), where future roads will be located, and what the building setback is along the road.

Below is an explanation of the street hierarchy system as outlined by the City of Houston Planning Commission.

Major Thoroughfares (also called Principal Thoroughfares) are those streets designed for fast, heavy traffic, and are intended to serve as traffic arteries of considerable length and continuity throughout the community. The location of these streets is based on a grid system covering the area within the City’s jurisdiction, which provides a theoretical spacing of Major Thoroughfares at one-mile intervals. Major Thoroughfares generally serve high-volume travel corridors that connect major generators of traffic such as: the central business district, other large employment centers, suburban commercial centers, large industrial centers, major residential communities, and other major activity centers within the urban area.

Collector Streets are public streets that accumulate traffic from local streets for distribution to the Major Thoroughfare streets. A Collector Street may be a Minor Collector or a Major Collector. Collectors Streets are designed to provide a greater balance between mobility and land access within residential, commercial, and industrial areas.

1) Major Collectors are public streets that accumulate traffic from local streets and Minor Collectors for distribution to the Major Thoroughfare. A Major Collector street may have commercial, residential or have mixed uses abutting.

2) Minor Collectors are public streets that accumulate traffic from local streets for distribution into a Major Thoroughfare or a Major Collector. A Minor Collector typically has residential uses, however it may also serve commercial or mixed uses.

Local Streets are public streets that provide access to individual single-family residential lots, provide entry and exit to the neighborhood, and provide connectivity to collectors and thoroughfares. In short, all other streets not previously listed are considered local streets that function to provide access from individual properties to the thoroughfare network.

Transit Corridor Streets are a rights-of-way or easements that METRO has proposed as a route for a guided rapid transit or rail transit system and that is included on the City’s MTFP.

There are two big impacts the MTFP has on developments:

First, it dictates the minimum required building setback. Generally, major thoroughfares have a 25-ft min. building setback and collectors and local streets have a 10-ft min. building setback. There are exceptions and optional performance standards that can reduce the building setback. Refer to the City of Houston Code of Ordinance for additional information. Also, its important to review a current title commitment for the property because there may be recorded deed restrictions that require a more restrictive building setback.

Second, the MTFP Street Hierarchy Classification Table establishes the minimum ROW width for public streets. If the street abutting a proposed development doesn’t currently have the minimum ROW width, the COH will make the property owner dedicate half of the required area to achieve the minimum ROW width. For example, if the project site abuts a street with a current ROW width of 80 feet and the Classification Table shows the street having a minimum ROW width of 100 feet, then the City will require the two adjacent land owners to dedicate a 10 foot strip of land along the street to the public ROW.

Need help determining how changes to the MTFP plan may affect your project? Reach out to one of our City of Houston permitting experts.

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