Ta-da! Money for Highways Appears Out of Nowhere in Texas

TxDOT is broke, at least according to the agency’s actual records. But a funny thing tends to happen when someone in Texas wants to build an enormous highway — money appears, as if from nowhere.

Yep, that's a city that needs more highways. Photo: Freelance Crunch

We saw this in the case of Houston’s Grand Parkway, the region’s third outerbelt and quite possibly the world’s largest sprawl project. Guess who found that money? A wealthy, politically-appointed suburban real estate developer!

Well, now it’s Dallas with highway plans — the controversial Trinity tollway, which has divided the City Council and given pause to the mayor himself.

So what happened next? Walkable Dallas Fort Worth‘s Patrick Kennedy:

Oh look! TxDOT found $2B lying around somewhere. Certainly, it wasn’t taken from somewhere else, possibly more desperate line items (education), by dexterous budget bureaucrats. And even more certainly will it be used for more supply-side solutions. In other words, expect an orgy of new road expansion projects to, at the very least, vie for those dollars.  Funny timing considering the levees are good to go and that would cover the cost of the Trinity Toll Road.

In other words, TxDOT will not bother thinking critically about any part of their decision-making and design process. Back to the same ol’ same ol’. No matter how failed or flawed…

So while we’re building more roads to solve the problem of congestion that doesn’t exist but for a few choke points, the fault of poor traffic planning that doesn’t filter vehicles across the grid, we’re also forcing increased car ownership and dependence. No, I’m not blaming you for having, using, owning, nor leasing cars. It’s your decision. But maybe it’s not. Imagine living without one or any cars? Is it possible? Likely not, since wherever you live and the real estate market is an outgrowth of the transportation network, like leaves are to branches, and branches are to trunks, the way our roads are built by policy and funding.

TxDOT should really hire a trained accountant to finally figure out exactly how much money they have, instead of leaving billions lying around. Let’s see if they can also “find” the $315 billion in additional money the Texas Transportation Institute estimates is needed just to keep the state’s existing highway system in good repair. The state should put its best real estate developers to work hunting down those billions.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure reports that the FRA has “expedited” the waiver process for transit agencies running light trains, but the process will still take three years. Market Urbanism defends Chicago in response to yesterday’s critique by the Urbanophile. And Greater City Providence reports that the Rhode Island General Assembly has approved complete streets legislation.