Opposition to the Trinity Toll Road hasn't quite reached the torrential flood that will be needed to sweep it into oblivion, but there's at least a decent-sized stream that's been growing, drop by drop as former supporters realize it's a terrible idea.
This morning, the Texas Public Interest Research Group adds another drop with the release of its report, "Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America's Transportation Future." The Trinity Parkway, according to the group, is one of the 11 stupidest highway projects in the U.S.
The specific arguments against the project -- that it will irreparably mar the planned riverside park, that it will hamstring a resurgent Downtown that is already ringed by freeways, that it won't really relieve congestion, etc. -- are well-established by now.
The TxPIRG report nods to these but zooms out to put the project in a broader context, arguing that the toll road is one of many examples of U.S. transportation planners failing to come to grips with a fundamental shift in Americans' driving habits and the inadequacy of building new roads to address transportation needs.
The number of miles driven by the average American plateaued in the mid-2000s and has since declined slightly. This isn't just a blip, TxPIRG argues. Baby boomers are aging out of the workforce and thus are driving less. More people are riding bikes and walking and taking public transit (although not necessarily in Dallas). Millennials are more likely to shun driving as a lifestyle choice.
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And yet projects like the Trinity Toll Road show that transportation planners remain locked in the paradigm of the past half-century's driving boom, in which Americans were driving more and more every year and the solution was to build more and more roads. The new roads have encouraged even more driving and promoted development on the city's increasingly distant fringe.
To TxPIRG the $1.5 billion it will take to build the Trinity Toll Road would be much better spent maintaining Dallas' crumbling streets and investing in making the local transit system more efficient. It's a hard point to argue.