Toll roads and neighborhoodsThe Houston Chronicle has an article this morning on some southwest neighborhood opposition to extending the Ft. Bend Toll Road up to the southwest corner of the 610 loop.
"On April 7, members of Super Neighborhoods Nos. 39 and 40 unanimously approved a resolution that calls for changes to a state law so that the public can participate in decisions to build toll-funded roads or to convert free highways to toll roads."I think we'll be seeing more of these kinds of stories as HCTRA continues to build out its planned network, which is absolutely critical if Houston is to maintain and improve mobility levels and keep high-tax-base employers from fleeing to the suburbs. These situations are a classic case of "greater good vs. vocal local interest", sometimes referred to as NIMBY ("not-in-my-backyard"). The whole region benefits from better mobility, but there can be negative neighborhood effects, and balancing those is the job of our elected politicians. The trick, of course, is what level of politicians: federal vs. state vs. county vs. city vs. neighborhoods. IMHO, Texas has historically done a pretty good job at this by putting the decisions at a high enough level to take into account the greater good, while still getting input from localities - one good example being the recent county-level approval of the Port of Houston expansion. When you push more power, esp. veto-level power, down to the localities, it becomes impossible to get anything done and you get gridlock.
So I guess I'd have to say I'm opposed to the changes they're proposing. If neighborhoods want to influence a toll road, they should contact their elected Harris County Commissioner. On the other hand, I would like to see efforts to:
- Acknowledge the concerns of local neighborhoods
- Mitigate impacts where economically feasible
- Give affected neighborhoods reasonable compensation in the form of other capital improvement projects they might not otherwise get anytime soon: other road improvements, parks, libraries, community centers, flood mitigation - whatever they'd most like to see.