It's Not Just Houston

Transit and smart development may be new ideas for Housto, but even in the Washington area where such things are old news, really stupid ideas can come along: Dulles Rail Foe Proposes Substitute (

The idea: make I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road bigger. Because the last widening of the toll road really reduced congestion, didn't it? And all those cars in traffic will do wonders for Washington's worst-on-the-east-coast air quality, too. And of course you still would have no workable public transit between the two biggest employment centers in the region (DC and Tysons Corner).

People in Houston complain about traffic, but when I remember working in Tysons Corner - where it could take 45 minutes to travel two or three miles when I left last year - it's easy to be grateful that it's just not that bad on the roads down here.

It's also quite telling that a developer wants to add more roadways. Road building in DC has been a bonanza for developers like Walker, who then can throw up suburban housing developments, sticking the local governments for costs like roads, schools, and utilities to support them - while the developers make a handy profit. Meanwhile, the entire region becomes more gridlocked and polluted. Cool!

Northern Virginia is an excellent example of how adding road capacity leads to more sprawl, traffic, and congestion. The sad reality, though, is that developers like Walker have deep pockets and tend to buy themselves a nice local government to do what they want. I actually think that northern Virginia has gone right past the point of no return as far as ever being a reasonable place to live and work in the future; still, one hopes that local government there will try to fix the damage rather than just making it worse.

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