While I was away on vacation The Dallas Morning News published an editorial saying Angela Hunt, Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson, our three brainiacs on the City Council, are stupid, don't know how to add and came up with all the wrong conclusions about the News' favorite project, the idea of building a new expressway in the flood zone out between the flood control levees along the Trinity River cutting off downtown from the city's only waterfront.
The News likes it. Hunt, Griggs and Greyson do not. They think building a highway in the flood zone is stupid.
One thing, stuff in flood zones floods. Duh. Other thing, why on earth in the year 2012 would a modern city ruin its only significant natural asset for a highway? Double duh.
But third thing, in recent months the council's intrepid transit trio have excavated state highway data revealing there is another much cheaper much more efficient solution to the city's supposed congestion problems. Instead of building an entire new highway on top of the river we should fix the highways we already have downtown.
That project, called Pegasus, will move almost twice as many additional cars as the flood-zone toll road and do it at higher speeds with a third less congestion and at half the cost. Pretty tough to argue with that, wouldn't you say?
Well, you know what? Speaking as a former editorial writer myself, I can tell you that a person can argue against anything if his boss tells him to and it's a condition of continued employment. So from the editorialistos at the Morning News we got this absolutely tortured logic telling us that the trio got their math all wrong and the new $2 billion underwater road favored by the News is way better.
How'd they do that? Easy. It's called typing. They found a single measurement by which the underwater route comes out ahead. And in my mind's eye I can see that moment in the editorial department when some editorial writer sticks his head up from his cubicle and shouts, "Hey, I found something good about it!"
It's called capacity. Capacity is a measurement of how much new pavement you pour. Lots of new pavement equals lots of capacity. Stands to reason if you build an entire new highway you'll pour a lot more new pavement than if you just take the bottlenecks out of the highways you already have.
The problems with capacity is this: What if the new pavement goes where nobody wants to drive? Like new pavement to some guy's farm in Ennis County? See what I mean? It's capacity, yeah, but it's empty capacity, because nobody wants to go there.
The real measurement, the one the federal highway authority and anybody else with any sense uses, is called "congestion mitigation." Its a measurement of how well you unsnarl the traffic you already have on the roads that go where people already want to go.
When you look at congestion mitigation, the Project Pegasus solution championed by the intrepid transit trio slaughters the new underwater highway in the flood zone. Pegasus is the one that comes out way more efficient and way cheaper.
But the editorial writers said, no, forget congestion mitigation. What we need to be proud of around this town is pouring new pavement, whether anybody wants to drive on it or not. Yeah. And like I say, I feel the editorial writers' pain. Mouths to feed, roofs to repair, bosses to keep happy. I get it.
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In brushing up again on congestion mitigation, however, I stumbled on one major issue that the News and their lackeys at the North Central Texas Soviet Council of Governments seem to be ignoring: In the most recent transportation bill in Washington, major emphasis and major funding preferences were placed on congestion mitigation and clean air.
I bet nobody has done a good analysis of the money we stand to lose if we forgo an opportunity to achieve significant gains in congestion mitigation and air quality improvement in favor of more new pavement.
In the end, it's just this simple: the people who own The Morning News really really want to see that toll road built on top of the river. I don't know why. Maybe somebody's crazy.
But if the intrepid trio came up with evidence that putting a new road out there will collapse the levees and kill us all, the editorial page of the News would call it a splendid boating opportunity.