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Texas has most ‘Highway Boondoggles’ of any state in the nation: report

This year’s annual Highway Boondoggle report adds two projects to the state’s growing list of wasteful highway extension projects: Loop 1604 in San Antonio and the Southeast Connector in Fort Worth
For Immediate Release

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has been singled out as the state with the highest number of egregious highway boondoggle projects in a new report by TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any state in the country and huge budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, Texas is planning to spend nearly $3 billion to expand Loop 1604 in San Antonio and build the Southeast Connector in Fort Worth.

These two new boondoggle projects join a list of two other already active boondoggles for a total of eight in the last decade--three more than any other state.

“Texas really needs to get its act together,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group. “TxDoT is already billions of dollars in debt, with billions more on the way, and they still insist on throwing good money after bad, investing more in proven failures. These projects lead to more pollution, more gridlock and more budget shortfalls.

If we’re smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars and focus instead on building a 21st-century transportation system, Texas can construct a better world coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one with less pollution, less gridlock and more public and active transit.”

San Antonio- Loop 1604

The Highway Boondoggles 6 report found the expansion of Loop 1604 would exacerbate commuting and highway danger problems. San Antonio already has the dubious distinction of having one of worst commutes in the country and houses one of the nation’s deadliest highways during holidays.

“Even as it fails to make San Antonio safer or healthier, the project will also likely fail to achieve its basic goal of reducing congestion,” Annalisa Peace, executive director of Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said. “This expansion of Loop 1604 cuts right through the heart of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone in Bexar County. The additional frontage roads included in the project will increase traffic, add to congestion and commuter delays and compromise the quality and quantity of San Antonio’s primary source of water by encouraging high density commercial development in one of the most environmentally vulnerable areas in Texas.”

“Loop 410 is an example of why this project won’t work. Following that highway’s $400 million widening, commute times actually got longer,” said Peace.

The sixth annual Highway Boondoggles report recommended that Texas cancel the Loop 1604 Expansion project and other proposed highway expansions, and instead invest in more effective transportation solutions, such as road repair and increased transit.

Fort Worth- Southeast Connector

Fort Worth has historically expensive toll roads and dangerous highways as well as some of the worst air quality in the country in 2019. According to Highway Boondoggles 6, the Southeast Connector will exacerbate all of these problems. At the same time, the project would squander valuable resources as basic transit needs in Fort Worth go unmet.

"We understand that with the population growth, important decisions need to be made about infrastructure investments to improve the lives of our citizens,” said Rachel Albright, president of the Tarrant Transit Alliance. “While the area that the Southeast Connector is intending to serve needs to be addressed, we encourage TXDOT and Fort Worth leadership to look into multi-modal transportation opportunities like express bus lanes, bus rapid transit and light rail which would ease congestion while decreasing air quality issues. Decreasing our community's reliance on single-occupancy vehicles is the best way to address key issues our region is facing such as urban sprawl, displacement, cost of living, air quality, street infrastructure maintenance, congestion and citizen access to jobs, education, and healthcare. It will take leadership, foresight, and investment to make this happen effectively."

The report found the Southeast Connector would require displacing 23 families from their homes, eight of which will likely be displaced from the neighborhood. Residents also worry about the 15 acres of trees planned for removal, since those trees are critical for blocking the highway from sound and sight. Further, some residents are concerned that the project would create a whole new “traffic nightmare,” because the removal of two onramps would create a new traffic bottleneck at the connection of I-820 with Brentwood Stair Road.

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TexPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. TexPIRG Education Fund is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.

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TexPIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.