From Texas Standard:
Many Texans know that all too well: highway traffic. The typical solution to relieve traffic is to add more lanes or build entirely new highways.
But a new article in the Texas Observer suggests that expanding freeways is creating even more traffic jams.
“We have known for decades that as capacity increases, a lane becomes full almost instantly,” said Observer Editor-in-Chief Megan Kimble. “That happened on the Katy Freeway in Houston after an extension was ready; the traffic actually got worse. ”
An alternative solution? Demolish Texas Highways.
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“A lot of people have modeled it, and some of that traffic is just going to go away,” Kimble said. “People will stop taking arbitrary trips. In addition, our road network can actually handle a lot more traffic than we think. ”
Kimble says this isn’t a completely new idea. A well-known example of freeway removal occurred near San Francisco after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
“[It] destroyed a stretch of motorway there, the Embarcadero Freeway, ”she said. “And while the city guides wondered what to do, people just maneuvered around them and got where they needed to go. And so the city decided to simply remove this motorway. ”
There are currently dozen of cities across the country considering demolishing highways, Kimble says.
And as with most highways built in the United States, in the past Texas highways were mainly built or separated by Black and Hispanic communities.
“Planners deliberately laid highways through these areas and demolished many, many houses in the process. A professor says that between 1950 and 1960 an estimated 37,000 homes were demolished each year. So we’re talking about half a million people across the country who lost their homes to highways, ”said Kimble.
And that’s not just a problem that arose 60 years ago; it continues today. Under the Biden administration, the plan to expand Interstate 40 in Houston is currently on hold. The Federal Highway Administration is investigating civil rights complaints over the predominantly black and Hispanic population in the communities who have suggested that new sections of I-40 be severed.
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