A Freeway Revolt Is Brewing in Dallas

To freeway or not to freeway? That’s been the question facing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

A freeway revolt in Dallas? A grassroots campaign produced this graphic as part of their push to stop the Trinity Parkway project, a planned downtown highway. Photo: Dallas Morning News Transportation Blog

Where at one time this would have been an open-and-shut case of “just build it,” Dallas’s Trinity Parkway toll road saga is already full of interesting twists and turns. Earlier this week, Rawlings sought public opinion on the project through his Facebook page, drawing far more jeers than cheers. Meanwhile, a petition has been circulating urging the city to call this one off. This has led some observers to wonder whether Dallas was witnessing its first “freeway revolt.”

Yesterday, Rawlings came out in favor of building the highway.

The anti-highway forces aren’t giving up. Helping to lead the charge is Patrick Kennedy, proprietor of Network blog Walkable Dallas-Fort Worth and well-known regional planning pundit. Responding to the mayor’s pro-highway statement, Kennedy posted this open letter to Rawlings:

If growth is what we’re focused on, then that is growth the highway may trigger regionally, i.e. outside of the city of Dallas boundaries. If we’re thinking that could induce investment in South Dallas, what kind of investment might that be? More gas stations and XXX shops, the eventual highest and best use of highway frontage property? South Dallas needs less car dependence and more empowerment via legitimate street networks, transit, and walkable infrastructure. More highway capacity simply adds more drivers and more dependence upon the car. It is South Dallas that will feel that pain the most.

If congestion relief is the goal, then shouldn’t we be tolling existing roads first? Ya know, working demand levers rather than new supply which has been proven over and over again to only be a temporary solution before inducing more traffic?

Considering the budgetary woes this city, like all public agencies across the country, is facing, profligate spending doesn’t seem to be the best direction. Particularly when it is founded on conventional wisdom from the 1960s through 1980s. It was pretty illuminating when you said that other North Texas cities will capitalize on mistakes that Dallas makes. So we’re competing against Waco and Waxahachie, now? Hardly world class, innit? Meanwhile, the cities at the top of the global competition food chain are removing freeways. And you know what? They’re inducing growth that way, back to the hearts of cities, by removing a structural impediment to livability and desirability while cutting the umbilical cord dependent places use to take advantage of host cities, like parasites. Cities are funny adaptable things.

We’ll be following this story as it develops, and hoping it ends well for Dallas.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure suggests Torontonians should go for a bike ride in honor of Jane Jacobs tomorrow. Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling takes a look at the obstacles preventing children from getting to school by bike. And PubliCola reports that the Seattle Times continues to rail against the free market insofar as it relates to parking policy.