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Dallas Council Member: Texas Poised to “Compound Errors of the Past”

The entire Texas highway machine -- suburban real estate moguls, the construction industry, the governor, and the legislature -- is pushing voters to approve Prop 7, a constitutional amendment that would mandate spending $2.5 billion in state sales tax revenue on un-tolled roads. The highway interests are telling Texas voters in unison that this measure, if approved in November, will fix congestion and not cost them any extra money -- claims that don't stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

Philip Kingston represents downtown Dallas on City Council. Photo: City of Dallas
Philip Kingston represents downtown Dallas on the City Council. Photo: City of Dallas
A screen shot of the San Gabriel Valley and the state highways that cross through its region. Caltrans District 7, which encompasses LA and Ventura County, is drafting a district active transportation plan and needs local input on how to improve the corridors of its state highway system. Image: Caltrans District 7 survey

But there hasn't been much pushback against the story that Prop 7 backers are selling. The Dallas Morning News' Brandon Formby reported that the only voice of political opposition is Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston, who represents downtown.

I spoke with Kingston this week about why he thinks Prop 7 is going to be terrible for the state. Here's our Q&A, edited for length and clarity.

I read in the Dallas Morning News that you -- and only you -- have some concerns about Prop 7.

Yeah, the Dallas Morning News said I’m the only person in Texas opposed to it.

It is incredibly bad policy. It got worse recently. The governor issued a directive saying the money from Prop 7 is to be directed at the worst areas of highway congestion in the state. We already know what those are: Those are massive double-decked highway projects inside urban areas.

We’re going to compound the errors of the past with all kinds of new money.

And this is going to negatively impact your constituents?

I represent downtown. We have the most congested roads in the city. The way that people have proposed to fix it is to increase lane miles. It’s just going induce demand, reduce air quality, and perpetuate the suburban hellscape.

Dallas recently built the immensely popular Klyde Warren park on a cap over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, which could be targeted for widening if Prop 7 passes. PhotoL Klyde Warren Park
Dallas recently built the immensely popular Klyde Warren park on a cap over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, which could be targeted for widening if Prop 7 passes. Photo: Klyde Warren Park

It’s existential for us. We’ve seen what highways have done to our city. We’re not going to take it anymore. The more we’ve looked at these issues, the more it appears highway planning has ruined Dallas’s chances of becoming an urban city. Why won’t they listen to us?

Do you have any idea what projects might happen? 

One is the Woodall Rodgers Freeway right to the heart of [my] district. We built a park over it [right]. I hope that’s enough to scare them away.

What would you rather see the money spent on?

I’d love to have that money for transit if we’re going to keep it in the transportation space. Two bigger needs are education and mental health.

These guys in the legislature, they’re bought and sold by the highway lobby.

We have never reached attainment for air quality in Dallas -- ever. We’re never going to get there.

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