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If the Devil Owned Hell and Texas…

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Bush is expected to call for increased focus on biofuels, to mitigate U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Meanwhile, in Bush’s home state, Interstate I-10 through Houston is being expanded to 18 lanes.

“Texas has always been pretty far over on the side of exploiting natural resources and not worrying about the consequences,” Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said. Pervasive drive-thru lanes and residential parking garages conspire to keep automobiles an inextricable part of Houston’s culture. Image.

Indeed, much of the empirical data implicates Houston, not even Los Angeles, as the U.S.’s epicenter of automobile-facilitated sprawl:



According to these DOT data, 97 percent of the Houston workforce drives a car (or walks or rides a bike) to work every morning. Even if we set aside an unrealistically large number of pedestrian and bike commuters, say 20 percent, we are still left with about three-quarters of Houston taking to the roads every morning. No wonder there’s congestion!

According to Reuters, the expansion of I-10 was hotly contested for over a decade:

[Environmentalists] had sought to preserve a rail line that ran along I-10 for a commuter train that someday might bring workers to the city from distant suburbs. But after 15 years of study and discussion about the highway, state officials decided to go with a highway-only strategy.

“You can simply get to your destination quicker and better in a car,” Bob Lanier, a former Houston mayor, said. If you can get there faster in a car, you are not going to take a train.”


  1. #1 Jonathan Vos Post
    January 19, 2007

    “If I owned Hell and Texas,” General Sheridan said, “I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell.”

    So Bush owns Hell, Texas, Iraq, and Iran, according to Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Paradigm: “you break it, you bought it.”

    However, as we shall see in the State of The Union speech, Bush lives in Denial.

  2. #2 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 19, 2007

    Speaking as someone who once lived in southern California:

    If you build it, they will come. Eighteen lanes sounds like a lot of wide, paved real estate (The El Toro “Y” had 26 lanes, counting entrance and exit ramps, high occupancy vehicle lanes, etc. the last I heard) If I had 18 lanes all to myself, you’re darn tootin’ I could get there fast. But it won’t be like that. Other people will drive on it as well. Given the highways, more hellish commuterville suburbia will crop up to use it. Once those highways are clogged with cars, then it is very questionable that it will be faster than rail travel.

  3. #3 Badger3k
    January 20, 2007

    Here in Texas, the government loves roads. They went ahead, over opposition, and built a toll-road along IH 35. When I drove through Austin to the airport, I’d estimate 90% of the traffic was on the normal highway, even when the traffic was horrendous. There were only a few vehicles on the toll road. It may change, but I suspect that the toll road will take many many many years before it even breaks even, let alone makes any kind of profit.

  4. #4 bwv
    January 21, 2007

    As a Houston resident, I can say that you all are full of S%^$. Commuter trains are a waste of money, as numerous studies show. The city actually has a large mass transit system. Fully loaded double buses leave every 5 minutes or so from park & rides in the suburbs going downtown. (I carpool myself) The problem is that like LA and unlike any of the Northeastern cities or Chicago, there is no real central business district. The people moving out to the sprawl generally do not drive their cars into downtown, they commute 5-15 miles to the many smaller business complexes around the city. It may be fun to be self-righteous and snide regards to Texas, but it often gets in the way of intelligent thinking.