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No More Road Only Bonds

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Another road building bond failed to meet the expectations of the voters of Montgomery County and the only thing so far to emerge from the elected officials is to try again in November with another road subsidy bond but without the extension of the Woodland Parkway, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The people of Montgomery County deserve better.

Building new roads in unpopulated areas brings development, construction and road jobs, and a temporary period of free wheeling on those new roads. However, this scheme always inevitably fails as we have horribly seen across every part of the Houston region. Road bonds lead to road debt, ongoing maintenance costs, and growing vehicle miles traveled with which our local and state governments are not prepared to grapple.

No American city has ever “reduced congestion.” No elected official in the Houston region has ever achieved this empty campaign promise. We are driving much more now as a population - even with the millennial preference for walking - and we don’t like it. Houstonians are spending too much on transportation, but we don’t have to waste our money.

Unfortunately, Houston is leading the nation’s top ten metropolitan regions in spending per capita on roads. It takes longer to drive on the free lanes of I-10 West in rush hour now than before we expanded it to the widest road in the world, because of the expected effect of induced development.

These failures should not go unrecognized.

The failure of the Montgomery County sprawl subsidy bond should not be followed with more failure.

The people of Montgomery County want multimodal transportation planning that makes it easier for all of us to walk, bike, drive, and take transit to all the good things Montgomery County has to offer. This is not according to Houston Tomorrow, but the Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research focus on the people of Montgomery County.

45% of respondents to the Houston Area Survey in Montgomery County call for major improvements in public transportation. “Fewer than one-third of the respondents in any of the counties (including Montgomery County) thought the best solution involves ‘building bigger and better roads and highways.’”

100% of the failed bond proposal was for roads. This failure should not go unrecognized.

The decisions made in Montgomery County will determine the fate of Montgomery County’s woods, people, and cities. Do we want Montgomery County to include polycentric thriving walkable urban cores connected by transit or do we want to pave over the whole county? That’s the basic decision, but the death of the woods of Montgomery County has been broken up into a thousand cuts.

The 2035 Houston - Galveston Area Council forecasts predict that most of the green space of Montgomery County will be lost if we continue current trends and policies. This nightmare scenario of destroying all of our wooded lands is progressing steadily because of our predominant sort of urban planning - er transportation spending - road bonds not intended to meet current transportation needs, but instead to “open up lands for development” as documented on the record by the Texas Department of Transportation while arguing for more subsidy to the Grand Porkway.

When you look at the maps of the current and future Montgomery County, remember that the total destruction of the county’s ecological assets is not at all necessary, and that a more equitable, exciting economy is available if we simply stop subsidizing sprawl and start investing in our existing communities. We can build streets safe for all users, transit systems that actually give you (and your new neighbors) freedom, and roads that your children can safely drive.

Let’s think about a more complicated, more beneficial transportation strategy for Montgomery County for the next bond referendum. Let’s give the voters what they want: balanced transportation spending that welcomes growth in a way that improves all of our lives. It’s not really that hard. Just stop building unnecessary roads with public debt to benefit developers and land speculators. That idea hasn’t worked out for the people of the Houston region.

Let’s stop asking voters just to spend their money to subsidize land speculation. Let’s start building Montgomery County for the people of Montgomery County and stop destroying our forest.

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