Can a City Have Too Much Transportation Network?

Yonah Freemark critiques a planned expansion to Dallas' already-extensive highway network, arguing that it undermines billions of dollars in light rail investment and sets its downtown on a path of stunted growth.

For the home of the nation's longest light rail network, Dallas struggles with astonishingly low transit ridership – just 4.2%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Freemark's view, that might just have something to do with the city's aggressive highway expansion policy.

For in addition to its extensive light rail system, Downtown Dallas is penetrated by seven grade-separated highways, and may soon see the addition of another. At roughly $1.5 billion, the new toll road is intended to relieve road congestion by building parallel to both existing highways and the new Orange Line, which will open this summer.

"This is transportation planning at its worst," Freemark opines. "Public dollars are being spent on two separate transportation projects that offer similar benefits and serve the same corridors. The advantages of the investments made in rail - namely, the ability to avoid congestion - are being marginalized by the construction of a huge new road that will, at least for a few years (until the congestion returns), make choosing the train a poor choice... And the result is that all this investment will again produce low ridership."

Proponents of the expansion argue that the toll road is critical to future growth, a claim that Freemark contends is misguided.

"Highways, by encouraging car use, make the walking, transit-oriented city impossible. The growth that Dallas has seen in its central areas could be ephemeral with the wrong decisions made."

Full Story: A Tollway in Dallas and the Absurdity of Building Duplicative Infrastructure

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