Here are 9 ways Texas should spend $ 35 billion on infrastructure

If you want to understand how wrong America’s priorities are when it comes to planning for a sustainable future, you don’t need to look any further than the allocation of funding for the $ 548 billion federal infrastructure bill. dollars. Of the $ 35 billion owed to Texas, according to the White House’s calculations, some $ 26.9 billion will go to repairing roads and highways, and only $ 3.3 billion to public transit. Another $ 408 million is planned for electric vehicle charging stations. That is, at a time when we should be encouraging people to be less car dependent, we are spending to promote driving by a margin of almost 10 to 1.

This ratio largely explains why, according to the city’s strategic mobility plan, just over 6.2% of Dallas residents use “alternative” modes of transportation: walking, cycling and public transit. A long term goal should be to reverse this paradigm. Certainly, no rational culture should consider walking as an alternative mode of transportation. The legs, after all, come with our body.

At the very least, the pandemic has shown us how essential it is to have pedestrianized neighborhoods and outdoor recreation areas. That won’t change when the pandemic ends, and with the development of new strains, it’s unclear when that will be.

The bill passed by Congress in November promises to fund a variety of key priorities, including weatherizing the electricity grid, safeguarding drinking water supplies, protecting against cyber attacks, and expanding access to electricity. broadband. This list, unfortunately, is only just beginning to meet the basic needs of the region. With that in mind, here are nine ways we should spend our share of Uncle Sam’s windfall.

1. Repair sidewalks and create pedestrian-friendly streets. The infrastructure bill provides for the rehabilitation of roads. Fine. But the first part of the roads that we should repair are the sidewalks. According to the Dallas Sidewalk Master Plan, adopted by city council in June, the city is faded away 2,046 miles of sidewalk. This does not take into account miles of sidewalk in poor condition or clogged with obstacles (especially Oncor utility poles). This disastrous state of affairs helps explain why so many Dallasers are reluctant to walk (and therefore rely on cars) and why those who do are so prone to injury or death from traffic accidents.

According to the 2019 Smart Growth America Pedestrian Hazard Index, Dallas is one of America’s worst cities to walk, with a score of 124.2, more than double the national average, and an increase of 11% from its 2016 score. Repairing sidewalks is the most important thing we can do, and it’s also the most expensive, with a price tag of $ 1.984 billion.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and a group of cyclists cycle during the opening of the east and westbound pedestrian and bicycle bridges on the Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas in June.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

2. Build protected cycle paths. In a ranking compiled by the cycling advocacy group People for Biking, Dallas ranks 97th out of 104 major US cities for cycling. It’s no wonder: Dallas has few protected bike lanes and continues to build roads and bridges without them, even though it’s lip service to the idea of ​​becoming more bike-friendly. A good example: In October, city council celebrated the allocation of $ 2 million to cycle paths. Ten years ago, the city’s first bicycle plan promised 1,000 miles of protected cycle paths. Today, the city has about twenty.

3. Implement a rapid transit bus system. Among the projects lawmakers plan to fund is the expansion of DART’s light rail system – the so-called D2 downtown alignment. Conceptually, it is a good idea that would increase the frequency of use of the still underutilized system. But the money could be better spent improving the bus service with an extensive network of dedicated express lanes. It’s much cheaper, easier to implement, and serving a larger population than rail.

High winds blowing before the approaching storms rock Lisa Wall (left) and Loyd Collier at a bus stop on Pearl Street in downtown Dallas.
High winds blowing before the approaching storms rock Lisa Wall (left) and Loyd Collier at a bus stop on Pearl Street in downtown Dallas.(Eve Edelheit)

4. A bus shelter for each stop. At a press conference on Monday, DART president Nadine Lee pledged that infrastructure funds would be spent on “projects that improve the rider’s experience,” including delayed maintenance and furniture ( or its absence) at DART stops. Currently, DART has recently proposed a point system that weighs various factors (frequency of service, ridership, neighborhood crime rate) to determine whether a stop should have a dedicated shelter, bench, or lighting. It’s a good start, but the richest country in the history of the world should be able to afford shady benches with lights at all Stop.

5. Remove I-345. Instead of a big freeway construction project, Dallas should go ahead with a big freeway deconstruction project. The I-345, the connector between I-45 and US 75, has passed its useful life and is an unnecessary barrier between Downtown and Deep Ellum. This space can be developed into a vibrant community, bringing affordable housing to an area directly adjacent to the heart of the city. Earlier this year, a TxDOT feasibility study came up with five options for dealing with the highway: thin it, lower it, lower it and thin it, leave it as it is, and remove it. The last option, withdrawal, is the best option and can be done with minimal increase in travel times.

6. Support the whole park system. Dallas has done a great job, over the past decade, expanding its park system downtown, with the addition of Klyde Warren, Pacific Plaza and West End parks. Two more are on the way, with the remake of Carpenter Park and the future Harwood Park. The large park system has not worked so well. In May 2020, as the pandemic was setting in, the Parks and Recreation Department put 25% of its permanent staff on leave. The reinstatement of these employees should be a top priority.

7. Increase Dallas tree cover. Earlier this year, with support from the Texas Trees Foundation, the Dallas Park Board approved its first urban forest master plan. Among its goals is to increase the city’s tree canopy from 32% to 37% by 2040. Trees grow slowly, but that’s too small a goal. This is the opportunity to expand it.

Volunteers work to plant a tree as part of a community growth program, which has attracted volunteers from organizations and businesses in the area to plant trees and clean tombstones.  The Texas Trees Foundation and TXU Energy sponsored the event, which was held at DFW National Cemetery.
Volunteers work to plant a tree as part of a community growth program, which has attracted volunteers from organizations and businesses in the area to plant trees and clean tombstones. The Texas Trees Foundation and TXU Energy sponsored the event, which was held at DFW National Cemetery.(Steve Hamm / Special Contributor)

8. Proceed on Trinity Park. The park between, on and next to the Trinity Dikes is Dallas’ most transformative infrastructure project. Strengthening these dikes and developing the floodplain and river to accommodate the proposed park is a key funding priority.

9. Plan a high speed train. The infrastructure bill devotes $ 66 billion to rail service. Much of that will go to upgrading Amtrak’s northeast corridor, but Texas is expected to use its share for the proposed high-speed rail service between Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth. Dallas will need a station integrated with DART, ideally downtown.

It is, admittedly, a long and expensive wish list. But the truth is, it shouldn’t be necessary. When it comes to taking care of the physical environment, we behave like a guy who sits on the couch all day watching TV and eating junk food and then ends up in the hospital chowing down. look at an unpleasant and expensive procedure. If we had taken better care of ourselves – maybe if we had invested in that gym membership and had better nutrition – we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today. So whatever comes out of this infrastructure bill, we had better deal with it.

Freeway lanes converge for the separation between I-30 and I-35E near downtown Dallas.  The infrastructure bill passed by Congress this month provides $ 26.9 billion to improve freeways and roads in Texas.

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