Houston’s Mayor Thinks Texas Needs a New Transportation Strategy

More highways could just mean more congestion.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 16, 2016 10:29 am,

Traffic, congestion, delayed drive times – problems Texans know all too well.

The state’s population boom has lawmakers and transportation officials scrambling to alleviate traffic issues. Last session the Legislature passed a constitutional amendment diverting millions from Texas’ Rainy Day Fund into transportation projects. While one easy answer to our transportation woes is to build more roads, not everyone agrees.

Newly elected Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the state can no longer pave their way out of congestion. He recently suggested to the Texas Transportation Commission that the state needs a totally new transportation strategy. He told the Standard that we have to keep in mind that we have a state Department of Transportation, not a state highway department.

“It’s not just building highways, it’s multi-modal in nature,” he says. “What the policy has been is that everything is driven towards the 97 percent of people who are in single-occupancy vehicles and that’s only adding to the congestion (instead of) reducing or eliminating it.”

We need to instead shift funding away from single-occupant vehicle solutions, he says. In the past, especially in Houston, the state has not taken that approach.

“Several years ago we completed the expansion of I-10 West in Houston,” Turner says. “We have gone now to 26 lanes, when you include the side roads and all. It is the largest number of lanes in the world, at a cost of $2.5 billion.”

Seven years after the highway expansion was complete, it became the eighth most-congested highway in Texas.

“I think that clearly demonstrates the the old way of doing things is not solving the current-day problems,” Turner says. “Unless we engage in a paradigm shift, people are going to be stagnated in their cars, congestions will increase, the economy will suffer. Businesses won’t grow, won’t come here, and they won’t be able to expand.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.