You don’t have to look far to see Texas’ love affair with highway expansion. Dallas loved I-635 so much they made a second 635 underneath the first one and charged a premium to use it.
I-35 is undergoing a similar expansion. The two-lane highway is a nightmare during rush hour, sometimes doubling travel times. Saying it feels like you spend an eternity on I-35 may be an exaggeration, but not by much considering the millions and millions of hours people are delayed each year.
Sure, everyone would prefer to have more roads, but for how long is that sustainable?
Proposing highway expansions seems like a win/win situation. If you’re a commuter, you’ll spend less time in traffic. And even if you’re not a commuter, it ultimately shouldn’t affect you.
But a recent article has suggested we greatly underestimate the incidental costs of highways. Turning I-635 into a five-lane monstrosity makes it impassable terrain for pedestrians. And most highways aren’t interested in footbridges or skyways unless they can put a toll on them. (maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas).
The cars-first mentality is also damaging to the growth of public transit. Planning efforts for any new DART lines now have to figure out how to get around these huge highways. In cities like Chicago, transit is built in-line with highways to allow healthy coexistence.
As long as cars are given priority over transit users and pedestrians, conditions will only get worse for the latter two groups. In some neighborhoods, they’ve stopped maintaining or even developing sidewalks. If a lack of traversable roads wasn’t bad enough, not having a sidewalk to use only makes it worse. I’ve witnessed a handful of Dallasites march through grass on the side of roadways regardless, but this can’t be a standard for a city that needs to provide options for people without cars.
Unfortunately, many people have felt Dallas has long abandoned interest in its own citizens. Much of North Texas’ growth has been outsourced to the suburbs, which only increases the strain put on highways. And while highways are a necessity for connecting the different North Texas city, there need to be other options for commuters.
The biggest issue with the endless highway growth in North Texas is that it isn’t sustainable. Even if we make all the highways into five-lane, double-decker Ultra Highways, it’ll only be a handful of years until all the cities grow exponentially and overcrowd those as well. It might finally be time for our city planners to accept that having one car per person on the road just isn’t feasible.