Can Houston Rein In Its Famous Sprawl?

The city's unabated growth has made it a bustling hub of industry and commerce, but can it sustain its unmitigated outward sprawl?

2 minute read

August 31, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Houston Metro

CC0 / Public Domain / Good Free Photos

Dug Begley takes on Houston's "relentless expansion," arguing that the city's current slate of massive projects "is leaving local leaders straddled between past strategies and unproven alternatives, between more sprawl and urbanization."

Houston's choice, according to Begley, "is how fast it should embrace an end to the old way of doing things and abandon the strategy of additional fringe development that for decades fueled growth" as the region's population growth continues unabated. Critics say the city's outward expansion becomes increasingly unsustainable in the face of the growing threats of climate change and natural disasters. But others worry that reining in sprawl will also lead to a sharp rise in real estate prices and less affordable housing for local families.

"Historically, Houston always has said yes to bigger projects: Wider freeways, larger detention ponds, bigger water pipes." And while recent debates over projects such as the expansion of I-45 signal a shift in thinking, it may not be enough. "Currently, the Houston-Galveston Area Council — the local planning agency that doles out federal money — has projects to continue building the Grand Parkway around the metro region, widen or expand nearly every existing freeway and build a new highway through Brazoria and Fort Bend counties on its books, along with various transit and bicycling projects." Some local leaders, such as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, want more incentives for public transit funding built into the infrastructure bill. Turner "has called for a 'paradigm shift' in local transportation" and said "the infrastructure bill needs stronger provisions to encourage local officials to tee up projects that meet climate goals."

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