“Devastating Consequences”

“One who acts with wisdom has nothing to fear, for fear lives in sin.  Where there is no fear there is liberty; where there is liberty there is the power of doing what one wishes.  Therefore, only the wise man is free.”  St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

Brandon Formby, the transportation reporter from the Dallas Morning News — and who has been doing a marvelous job covering all angles of the emerging and on-going debates over highways, tollroads, and the like, has a new piece on the silence of the Trinity Toll Road Supporters (I’m thinking of a portmanteau between Toll and Road as a nickname).  You should read it for yourself, but a specific quote jumped out at me.

Leading up to a controversial 2007 referendum on whether to build the road, Morris said not doing so would have “devastating consequences” on the city. He said that fixing other downtown highways without a reliever route in place would prove nearly impossible.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of fear as a rhetorical device, but the above quote reminded me of something I dug up in my researching ANewDallas:

Screenshot of a 1996 San Francisco Chronicle story on the closure of the Central Freeway, eventually redesigned as Octavia Boulevard.

Not only is the above story relevant in pointing out that the CalTrans traffic engineers and highway builders didn’t understand how cities work, but take special note of the language and histrionics employed when it began looking like they wouldn’t get their way, “grim,” “serious,” “congestion of historic proportions,” and “horrendous.”  Traffic actually got better.  Why?  People and the urban patterns adapted.  By switching from highways to boulevards, infill development increased in demand.  Unsurprising because who wants to live under or next to a highway?

People moved closer to where they worked (because it was more desirable and more supply to meet that pent-up demand) and had better access to transit options.  In short, there were less cars on the road as urban transportation infrastructure shifted the real estate market back inward towards the city, less car-dependence, and towards more sustainable and profitable neighborhood form.

With that in mind, I’m working on an in-depth analysis of how the Embarcadero highway tear-down (also in San Francisco) dramatically shifted that portion of the city:  drastic increases in new housing, new residents, new jobs, and higher median incomes.  Keep an eye out for that in the future as I cobble together a spare hour here and there.  Until then, let’s see what Texan Mike Judge has to say about the profligate overshoot of highway building:

 

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