Road Warriors

Look beyond Houston: Your story was fantastic, though utterly disturbing and depressing ["The Mixmaster," by Josh Harkinson, July 22]. I've often told my friends that we should use dictatorial extremes and destroy all the roads to bring them back to 1970 levels. Then people would have no choice but to find and, more important, demand alternative means of transportation.

Meanwhile, we would get back square miles of green space, forest, parklands, etc. I may be half joking, but I feel that people like Eckels don't have a clue and don't sound like they've ever left their suburban homes to see what else is out in the world. While born a Houstonian and having spent most of my life here (and tied to my car and having the same pinhole-sized worldview and thinking people like Eckels clearly exhibit), I've also lived in huge cities such as Chicago, New York and London. These are cities with larger populations and, in London's case, more sprawl. They have effectively used public transportation alternatives to reduce congestion and enhance mobility.

And there is no freedom like being able to hop aboard the tube at 2:30 a.m. after the bars get out and not have to worry about your safety. I don't know what it is about Texas that continues to produce people who have no concept of anything outside of their tall picket fences. It's time to mobilize Houston residents and do something about transportation before the area becomes one giant parking lot.

Sean Stoner

In the dark: Thank you for your fabulous article on transportation.

Future transportation plans are such a vital and important part of what Houston is and will be. Our planning and building process is in the dark ages and makes less and less sense, considering the changes we should expect in our economics and population, not to mention the changes we can't support because of the reality of our natural environment.

Those of us who are trying to chip away at the "business as usual, the public need not know or participate" approach taken by our decision makers greatly appreciate getting some facts and well-expressed issues to the public.

Lesly Van Dame

Good-bye, accountability: Great, really great article. You did an excellent job and covered a lot of the issues. You identified key players and the dilemma the region has gotten into.

Wow! Did you get an impression that decision makers will try to get the public to support these projects and pay for them, but really don't place much value on public input?

Although a number of nonprofit organizations are working hard to educate the public about the relationship between the regional plan and quality-of-life issues such as air pollution, health impacts and potential for flooding, to name a few, we fear there is little time, because these projects are fast-tracked.

People who voted for Proposition 15 did not know that it would result in new state legislation (HB 3588) that allows the governor to appoint the chair of every Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) in the state, allows the unelected RMAs the authority of eminent domain to take private property for the state, allows double taxation by letting roads paid for by tax dollars be turned into toll roads, and allows exclusive franchise and lease agreements along the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The public eventually will find that projects like the global trade routes and Grand Parkway are really not about relieving local congestion. If the vision of our regional plan is to accommodate international trade traffic, and to have us pay for it, the public has the right to an open and honest discussion. Instead, something of such great regional significance flies below the radar, while the state is taking people's homes, businesses, public open spaces and environmentally important areas. Those interested in more information may call me at the Sierra Club at 713-521-3981.

Thank you again for all the research and work for this article.

Christine Sagstetter

Suburbs are the solution: I have to congratulate you on another tiresome screed about how our city would be oh-so-much-better if it were exactly like Boston, as opposed to, say, every other city west of the Appalachians. What "urban planning" experts such as the oft-quoted Dr. Klineberg don't seem to grasp is that Houston is basically a big suburb. Much of its growth has been fueled not by central planning but by annexing privately developed tracts of land that at one time constituted suburbia.

Because of this "snatch and grab" philosophy, road planning was often a chaotic mess. While this sort of market-based expansion (i.e., letting people decide where to live, then moving the city toward them, rather than vice versa) may be the only workable solution to a town with no zoning and no natural boundaries, we are witnessing one attempt to work within the realities of our city's situation.

Also, the Katy Freeway expansion has little to do with downtown. The new lanes in the area between the West Loop and Texas 6 would be a huge improvement. Would our health experts feel better about cars moving efficiently at higher speeds, producing less pollution, or sitting and idling inefficiently, producing more pollution?

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