Kevin DeGood Profile picture
Sep 22 16 tweets 7 min read
1/ Let's talk about why the group of connectivity projects (some of them quite good) proposed by Central Houston for the massive $10B I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) are lipstick on a pig.
2/ First, a bit of review. The monster I-45 expansion project would require the demolition of 1,079 housing units (of which 486 are public and/or low-income), 344 businesses, and 2 schools.

These are massive impacts.
3/ In response, Harris County filed for relief against TxDOT under NEPA and Section 4(f). A coalition of NGOs sued TxDOT under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Finally, FHWA requested TxDOT pause the project.
4/ The disparate impacts from the NHHIP are not limited to affordable housing loss. The NGO complaint notes that the project would degrade air quality in "predominantly lower-income communities of color..." (Note: MSATs are mobile source air toxics)
5/ The expansion of I-45 will dramatically increase VMT, leading to spikes of up to 175% for harmful pollutants like Benzene at Bruce Elementary and the Houston Academy for International Studies, among others.
6/ How nasty is Benzene (just one of many harmful tailpipe pollutants)? Well, according to the CDC, it damages bone marrow and can cause anemia.
7/ Ok, so let's talk about what Central Houston wants to do. Short answer: a bunch of expensive but pretty cool stuff. Total estimated cost: $737 million.


These projects are emphatically not a meaningful remedy to NHHIP impacts.
8/ For instance,the EaDo cap park at $151M. Love cap parks. We need more of them.
9/ The EaDo cap park would have an "Event Law" for, well, events. Again, love it.

But what's this got to do with smog, mobile source toxics, and the loss of 1,079 housing units, 344 businesses, and 2 schools?

Answer: Nothing.
10/ The Andrews Street Reconnection is also a cool project that won't replace lost affordable housing or reduce the disparate burden of increased air pollution on low-income and communities of color.
11/ They also want better bridges over highways. They are calling them "garden bridges," which is...a stretch.

Improving pedestrian and bike facilities is great. It's also not a meaningful remedy for the harms of the NHHIP.
12/ Central Houston argues that the package of projects would provide "neighborhood connectivity." Sure.

But that's not the basis of the civil rights complaints filed against NHHIP.
13/ Note the wording. The package of projects would serve as a "necessary correction for past inequitable transportation decisions." Again, these projects are NOT a meaningful remedy for the harms that the NHHIP *will* cause.
14/ And how does Central Houston envision paying for these improvements? Tax increment financing (TIF).


Why should locals shoulder the cost burden to remedy harms created by TxDOT? Shouldn't TxDOT pay for TxDOT-caused harms?
15/ The Houston Central report was sent to the FHWA's Title VI Program Team Leader. This set of projects is not a meaningful remedy to the true impacts of NHHIP and FHWA should not allow the proposal to influence its final decision.
16/ Moreover, the connectivity projects put forward by Houston Central won't address the largest impact of the NHHIP: supercharged exurban sprawl.

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More from @kevin_degood

May 31
1/ In 1956, General Motors opened its famed Technical Center, which was designed by Eero Saarinen. The modernist architecture is spectacular. In the booklet Where Today Meets Tomorrow, GM refers to the facility as a "technopolis." Image
2/ I mean, dag. ImageImageImageImage
3/ But when you pull back from the structures you see the catch. ImageImageImageImage
Read 4 tweets
May 27
1/ I'm trying to understand why the modernist vision for urban renewal after WWII was so powerful. I think a small part of it is how people respond to models/visuals. And this got me thinking about art. I dig this painting by Camille Pissarro of Rue Saint Lazare, 1893. Image
2/ The scene depicted is vibrant and captures the energy and shared use of the public right-of-way that appeals to urban reformers. But this controlled chaos isn't how we present renewal models. It's a bit of a Jackson Pollack. Image
3/ Now let's look at downtown Toledo, Ohio. The first photo was taken during the Christmas shopping season in 1959. The second is a street scene in 1950s and a streetcar line similar vintage. All are busy and a little messy. So what does urban renewal look like visually? ImageImageImage
Read 8 tweets
May 16
1/ Let's talk about the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and how a decision by this little-known corner of the federal government on a dispute between Amtrak and two Class I freight RR (CSX & NS) could have huge implications for passenger rail service nationally.
2/ The case before the STB is about a plan for Amtrak to run two round trips each day between New Orleans (NOLA) and Mobile. The service would operate on CSX and NS railroad tracks (i.e., these Class I carriers are the host railroads).
3/ Historically, private RR companies provided intercity passenger rail service. Eventually, this service was codified as part of a RR's common carrier obligation (CCO). (I believe COO was codified by Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, but correct me rail historians).
Read 15 tweets
May 3
1/ Let's talk about how federal transportation funding can deepen social/mobility inequality. H.R. 6270 (AAIM Act) would provide grants for the planning, environmental review, and construction of eVTOL vertiports (i.e., pads for flying cars and drones). Image
2/ We need to start with some basics: (1) Flying cars will be an elite form of transportation; (2) they will not reduce surface congestion; and (3) they will deepen inequality and elite isolation as well as harm the environment.…
3/ But before eVTOLs can take hold they need subsidies -- lots of them. From my paper, "a state department of transportation may decide to build takeoff and landing pads..." The AAIM Act would fund exactly this type of infrastructure. ImageImage
Read 15 tweets
Mar 11
1/ Let's talk about the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse within the context of PA's transportation finance system, including the PA Turnpike Authority.

We think of turnpike authorities as revenue generating and therefore walled off from cities and DOTs. Not so much in PA.
2/ According to the National Bridge Inventory database, the Fern Hollow bridge received a "Poor Condition" rating for its superstructure (i.e., the part that holds up the deck/roadway) in 2012. The slow decline of a bridge built in 1970 became critical 10 years ago.
3/ What is happening in the region in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Answer: the Turnpike Authority was charging full steam ahead with a long-standing plan to build a beltway consisting of two mega projects broken up into multiple segments:
- Southern Beltway
- Mon/Fayette Exp.
Read 15 tweets
Mar 9
1/ Let's talk about the new long-range transportation plan (Connect 2050) for Durham-Chapel Hill-Carborro (DCHC) and how the NC's Strategic Transportation Investment (STI) law & project scoring process penalizes regions that want to advance progressive transportation plans. ImageImage
2/ Like many MPOs, Durham/DCHC has for years included progressive language & goals in its long-range plan. For instance, the 2050 plan places a heavy emphasis on affordable, safe, multimodal access as well as addressing climate change and health. ImageImage
3/ Yet, the region's project mix has often not aligned with these goals. Since 1990, NCDOT & locals have dumped at least $2.8 billion into large highway expansion projects (red & purple). Result: VMT growth exceeds population growth rate, producing huge GHG & criteria emissions. ImageImage
Read 13 tweets

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