Wading through Grand Parkway spin

Last night's Grand Parkway meeting was informative, spin-filled and fairly well-attended.

On the panel was County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) Executive Director Art Storey, HCTRA Director Mike Strech, TxDOT's Gary Trietsch, Grand Parkway Association Executive Director David Gornet, Jerry Thomas from United to Save our Spring, David Miflin from the Fox Hollow HOA, and Peter Tyler from the Citizens Transportation Coalition.

Gary Trietsch, Art Storey, and Mike Strech all echoed one another -- the Grand Parkway is a TxDOT project and will remain a TxDOT project, regardless of whether or not HCTRA comes in as a funding partner; HCTRA is doing its own feasibility study to decide if it wants to get involved; everyone is trying to determine the alignment with the least impact, and on and on.

Mike Strech also mentioned that he/they (HCTRA?) have met with developers who have undeveloped land to see if there is a corridor that would have a minimal impact. (Uh, okay. Developers of undeveloped land have more say than the residents who already live there? Even if the GP can be situated on mostly undeveloped land, it doesn't matter! RESIDENTS DON'T WANT IT! That behemoth of a highway will ruin the communities up here.)

Peter Tyler gave an overview of the CTC and how it is working to make toll road authorities more accountable to local citizens and municipalities. He said that CTC attempted to get legislation passed that would have required three things of TRA's -- give advance notice, allow public input, and be required to conduct environmental impact reports. He said the group was unsuccessful this year. Do you want to guess why?

Jon Lindsay, of course, stopped the legislation.

Jerry Thomas of United to Save our Spring wondered who invited HCTRA to become a potential partner in this project [we never got an answer].

Several elected officials sent representatives on their behalf. State Rep. Debbie Riddle's representative and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe's representative said that they support the constituents in this fight and both encourage more public meetings.

State Sen. Jon Lindsay's representative said that Lindsay still supports the Grand Parkway, that if the project is not built "Spring will strangle on its own traffic," and he's disappointed that a determination hasn't been made and that the project isn't moving forward.

She wasn't well-received with that statement.

A question and answer session followed. I won't go into all of them, but I will highlight a couple. One question asked if this is considered a regional mobility solution or if it's geared toward local traffic. Storey admitted it's basic purpose is for regional mobility, although he's sure locals will use it once it's built. He said that currently it takes Tomball residents one hour to get to I-45 and that needs to be remedied.

Which makes me wonder why Spring residents have to be bulldozed in order to give Tomball residents a faster route to I-45. That's just bizarre. If a Tomball resident needs to get to I-45 more quickly on a regular basis, then maybe that person should move closer to I-45. Duh.

Storey also said demographers are saying that Harris County's population is going to double in the next 20 years and we have to plan for that. Yeah, well, show us the studies, show us who conducted the studies, show us who paid for the studies and then read this:

The study shows with very high statistical significance that forecasters generally do a poor job of estimating the demand for transportation infrastructure projects. [...] For half of all road projects, the difference between actual and forecasted traffic is more than ±20%. The result is substantial financial risks, which are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision makers to the detriment of social and economic welfare. Our data also show that forecasts have not become more accurate over the 30-year period studied, despite claims to the contrary by forecasters.

[snip]

[T]he findings show that a major planning and policy problem—namely misinformation—exists for this highly expensive field of public policy.[...] The problem of misinformation is an issue of power and profit and must be dealt with as such, using the mechanisms of transparency and accountability we commonly use in liberal democracies to mitigate rent-seeking behavior and the misuse of power. To the extent that planners partake in rent-seeking behavior and misuse of power, this may be seen as a violation of their code of ethics—that is, malpractice. Such malpractice should be taken seriously by the responsible institutions. Failing to do so amounts to not taking the profession of planning seriously.

Yes, I submitted a question and it was asked: Even Bob Lanier now admits that Houston doesn't need more rings (wheels), but instead needs more spokes to improve mobility. Why doesn't Harris County focus on widening, expanding, improving existing roads, especially the spokes?

Storey basically dodged, by saying that he agrees more spokes are needed and they are being worked on all the time.

Sigh.

In the forum, Connie O'Donnell has some thoughts on last night. Don't miss the part about Jerry Eversole and his explanation for supporting the project. He really did say that. And he was serious!

I still think THE major driving force behind this project and THE major roadblock to getting it moved north or shut down completely is Jon Lindsay, and I think it's high time he becomes a full-time tree farmer. He does not represent the constituents who voted for him; he represents developers, period.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 05/26/05 06:29 PM | Print |

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