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Don’t pave paradise

I obviously missed the story that spawned this editorial, but I agree 100% with its arguments and conclusions. Building a toll road through the Heights so that commuters from the far reaches of the 290 Corridor can get downtown a little faster is head-slappingly stupid.

Does it really make sense to damage the quality of life in inner-city areas where residents have chosen to raise their families so someone who lives in the suburbs can shave a few minutes off their drive-time? What is the purpose of the city’s new mass transit strategy if not to reduce the volume of cars coming into the city?

This is the toll road version of folk singer Joni Mitchell’s famous lyric: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

District H Councilman Adrian Garcia says such a toll road would “wreak havoc” in the area. He also believes citizen groups should have been consulted before the county approved negotiations to take over the rail line.

Harris County Toll Road Authority spokeswoman Patricia Friese claims the hubbub over the possible use of the former rail line as a toll road is “premature.” Yet she also admits that if her agency gets the property, it would likely build the road. “The worst-case scenario,” comments Friese, “is that you’ll have a toll road instead of a rail line.”

That ignores the reality that the rail line is long gone. The city shouldn’t sit back and allow a worst-case scenario to unfold in the Heights.

The message I get from this is that the suburbanites matter more than the Inner Loopers. Needless to say, I think those are some seriously out-of-whack priorities.

I should mention there’s already a freight train that runs through the Heights, too. It’s on a track near Washington and Center Streets, and though it’s a bit more than a mile from my house at its closest point, I can still hear the train whistles from my bedroom. They’re usually blowing in the predawn hours. Just so you know.

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3 Comments

  1. Anne says:

    You missed the story (like most of us did) because it was buried in the Chronicle’s regional This Week section, for the Heights:

    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/thisweek/zone10/news/2914385

    The Press had a story on it, too:

    http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2004-11-25/news.html

  2. Anne says:

    I should have added that I think the story is more important than its placement in This Week suggests. And the editors must think so too, in hindsight, or else they wouldn’t have written an editorial on it. Also, the Chronicle story doesn’t mention (but the Press story does) that Metro has an interest in that corridor for a future light rail line. The editors don’t say in the editorial if they would be in favor of a light rail line there.

  3. bill says:

    Train whistles carry a long ways at night. I am wondering if the one you spoke of could be the same one I use to hear in my bedroom way down on West Main.

    But seriously, a metro line sounds like a better plan than a toll road.