April 20, 2005
Toll road updates

Anne has updates on on Toll Road Mania, with news about neighborhood groups near South Post Oak Road opposing a proposed alteration to that thoroughfare (and also endorsing the CTC resolution (PDF) to make the Harris County Toll Road Authority more accountable at a local level), plus an update on the situation in Fort Bend.

Regarding the former, here's an alternate perspective on HCTRA.

These situations are a classic case of "greater good vs. vocal local interest", sometimes referred to as NIMBY ("not-in-my-backyard"). The whole region benefits from better mobility, but there can be negative neighborhood effects, and balancing those is the job of our elected politicians. The trick, of course, is what level of politicians: federal vs. state vs. county vs. city vs. neighborhoods. IMHO, Texas has historically done a pretty good job at this by putting the decisions at a high enough level to take into account the greater good, while still getting input from localities - one good example being the recent county-level approval of the Port of Houston expansion. When you push more power, esp. veto-level power, down to the localities, it becomes impossible to get anything done and you get gridlock.

So I guess I'd have to say I'm opposed to the changes they're proposing. If neighborhoods want to influence a toll road, they should contact their elected Harris County Commissioner. On the other hand, I would like to see efforts to:

1. Acknowledge the concerns of local neighborhoods
2. Mitigate impacts where economically feasible
3. Give affected neighborhoods reasonable compensation in the form of other capital improvement projects they might not otherwise get anytime soon: other road improvements, parks, libraries, community centers, flood mitigation - whatever they'd most like to see.

Given that HCTRA, of which the County Commissioners Court is the driving force, is essentially not accountable to anyone (Word doc) at this point, I'd have to say that those concerns expressed will be completely ignored until there is at least a credible threat looming to curb that power. Given also that the HCTRA is being considered as a way to avoid public review and environmental impact requirements that federally funded highways are subject to, I'll take my chances with gridlock.

I just got an email from the CTC saying that Mayor White and the City Council have given their toll road accountability resolution a strong statement of support. I'm very happy to hear it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 20, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

In addition, you have to consider whether roadbuilding represents a greater good. It does if you want an increasingly sprawling and car dependent city in which the need for an auto acts as an effective tax on the poor, the air quality continues to decline, traffic density increases, and existing neighborhoods are trashed, resulting in greater urban blight. This doesn't sound like a greater good to me, but maybe it does to someone else.

Posted by: John on April 20, 2005 7:08 PM