Where the people aren’t

Tomorrow, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court is issuing contracts to proceed with design on Segment E of the Grand Parkway, the I-10 to 290 portion of a proposed 170-mile loop around the fringes of the Houston region.

And I mean fringes: there’s nobody out there. Only 80,000 people live within 3 miles of Segment E, and 66,000 of them live within 3 miles of 290 or I-10. And there are only 22,000 jobs in that same area. Here’s a density map from the Gulf Coast Institute:

Put that in perspective: The University Line, only 3/4 as long as Segment E, has 574,000 people living within 3 miles, and 714,000 jobs.

So why would we build a highway that serves so few people? It’s not to deal with congestion, since there is no congestion there. It’s not to provide an alternate to 290 — the way to do that is to build the Hempstead toll road, running along 290 rather than taking a 20 mile detour.

There’s only one reason to build Segment E: to encourage development. If the commissioners approve it, it’s because they want new subdivisions built in the open space of the Katy Prairie. We’re building a highway for people who don’t live here yet in hopes that developers will build houses for them and that they will want to live on a toll road 30 miles from Downtown in a world of $4 gas. This is, simply put, land use planning, Houston style. And the question for the commissioners is this: is this good planning?

What’s you plan? Tell us in the forums.

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