For Immediate Release
August 30, 2022
CONTACT: Riikka Pohjankoski, 713-589-7079, [email protected]
Report urges Texas to rethink transportation priorities amid climate crisis
The current investment and prioritization of highways will undermine efforts to reduce pollution and action to fight the worst impacts of climate change
HOUSTON, TX – As the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) members vote today on the 2023 Unified Transportation Program (UTP), the state’s 10-year transportation plan, a new report by Air Alliance Houston urges the state transportation officials to adopt an approach to transportation planning that will improve safety and health.
The report, ‘Why are we still building highways?,’’ was submitted by Air Alliance Houston to the TTC in response to their draft 2023 UTP which has allocated $34.58 billion for highway widening projects alone over the next ten years. An inconceivable amount, according to the report, in light of the known inefficiencies of the highway system, a flawed method of analysis, and the growing threat of climate change.
The report’s examination of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) planning apparatus shows that TxDOT’s congestion reduction efforts keep failing to achieve sustained results because much of their underpinning data and metrics are constructed to exaggerate congestion costs and expansion benefits. In addition, TxDOT’s planning practices explicitly ignore the well-established phenomenon of ‘induced demand,’ and the agency’s insistence on speed runs contrary to road safety goals, according to the report.
The report further highlights how TxDOT’s dogged focus on mitigating congestion by building more automobile capacity impedes us from sufficiently addressing the rapidly worsening climate crisis. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Texas, and TxDOT’s investment and prioritization of highways are in direct conflict with local and national efforts to reduce emissions.
“With the climate crisis upon us and with ample evidence pointing to the inefficacy of ever-wider highways, it is absurd and unacceptable that our state continues to throw billions of dollars into road expansions,” said Harrison Humphreys, Climate Programs Manager at Air Alliance Houston and the lead author of the report. “It is imperative that we reverse this investment in order to improve our resiliency, public safety, and quality of life.”
To address climate change and improve transportation planning, the report includes the following policy recommendations:
- TxDOT must reckon with the failure of its highway-centric transportation strategy and reevaluate congestion mitigation as a planning goal before the state spends billions of dollars more on doomed expansion projects.
- Texas should eliminate the Texas Clear Lanes program and divert the billions of dollars in this discretionary fund from highway expansion projects to expanding multimodal infrastructure (e.g. sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit), improving safety, and repairing existing roads.
- The Texas Legislature must pass legislation to expand the use of the State Highway Fund (SHF), which contains nearly all of our state-generated transportation funds, to cover multimodal transportation infrastructure that will actually help reduce mobile emissions.
- TxDOT must acknowledge the reality of climate change and develop an emissions reduction plan that aligns with the federal goal of 50 percent reduction of carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
“The State of Texas is set to receive a wave of new infrastructure funds due to recently passed federal legislation, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Unless we drastically change our policy and planning practices, too much of these funds will be used to proliferate an unsustainable highway agenda that has not reduced congestion instead of providing accessible, resilient multimodal options,” said Humphreys.
For a copy of the report, click here.
Humphreys will be giving public comments today, Tuesday, August 30th, at the Texas Transportation Commission Meeting in Austin, Texas, starting at 10:00 am. He will be joined by other transportation advocates from Houston and across the state in demanding that TxDOT invest in freedom of movement for all Texans in its 2022 vote on the Unified Transportation Plan. To watch the meeting online, visit: https://www.dot.state.tx.us/apps-cg/commission/mtgs-live-aus.htm
Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts from air pollution and advance environmental justice through applied research, education, and advocacy. For more information and resources, please visit www.airalliancehouston.org.