The Fiscal Insanity of Highway Building

Dallas. Photo: David Herrara via Flicker (CC)
Highways crisscross highways in Dallas, yet transportation officials never seem to think there are enough. Photo: David Herrera/Flicker (CC)

To peer inside the minds of highway builders, take a look at what’s happening in Dallas.

Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth has been poring over a 2007 document produced by regional planners at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Interestingly, this seven-year-old document proclaimed an urgent need for the as-yet-unbuilt Trinity Toll Road, which highway builders are still trying to push through today.

Kennedy points out that without the Trinity Toll Road, Dallas has somehow avoided collapsing into chaos in the past seven years. He proceeds to attack the arguments for highway building, starting with the notion that Dallas needs a multi-billion dollar highway to reduce $66 million in congestion costs:

You’re telling me we need to spend $5 billion in order to save $66 million? And that’s just to build the roads, let alone the life cycle costs. This math and logic is why TxDOT is $35 billion in the hole right now. Congestion can’t be fought with more highway capacity. It can only be diminished by getting people out of cars and building more walkable communities. DFW is tied with Detroit for most car-dependent major city in the country…

Meanwhile, the cost of car-dependence is $2 trillion nationally. In Houston, they spend $33 billion unnecessarily on making the exact same trips that occur in Copenhagen. But in Copenhagen, they’re far more efficient and cost effective.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee shares the results of an online survey indicating support from county residents for more transit, while public officials at the state level only deliver service cuts. World Streets explains the Netherlands’ history with car sharing. And Strong Towns says Minnesota’s plan to spend $1.1 billion on road projects this summer is a complete waste.

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