Lately, we have been covering the New York transit system and even a few stories about what’s happening in New Jersey. Let’s face it. Things are pretty bad. The system is more than 100 years old, the City and State are fighting over who is going to pay for the upgrades, and commuters have had enough. In 2017, the American Society for Civil Engineers published a report card giving America’s infrastructure a D+ average.
Coming from the Big Apple, we often think of the city as the best of the best and no one can do anything better. But in the case of infrastructure, Dallas can be a good example on what is going right. We know that the population is only 1.38 million compared to the population of New York City at 8.5 million, but there are still lessons to be learned.
Dallas added more than 100,000 people in 2017. Even with the “Don’t Mess with Texas” mentality, Texas’ regulatory system has supported positive efforts in the areas of the environment, planning, and rapid advances in smart-traffic technologies.
Specifically, here are some of the key areas where the city is hitting a home run on infrastructure.
High-speed rail: When the rail will be completed, it will connect North Texas to Houston in 90 minutes. Getting this project done is due in part to the eminent domain laws that grant authority to railroads like the Texas Central Partners’ high-speed rail project. While similar projects are in the works elsewhere in the U.S., Texas Central appears furthest along in completing theirs — and it is privately funded.
Autonomous vehicles: In July of this year, the city of Frisco will join forces with the company Drive.AI to launch Texas’ first autonomous street shuttle. While other cities are working on autonomous vehicles, Texas appears to be the first to schedule the use of a shuttle service on public streets.
Smart infrastructure: This effort is one of our personal favorites. The cities of Frisco, Grapevine, Dallas and other North Texas cities have started the process of sharing their traffic data to improve stoplight timing. The idea is to synchronize traffic flow rather than building wider streets. Data analysis is a major part of smart infrastructure, and the city of Dallas authorized an $8.9 million contract with Ericsson to analyze the data collected at tens of thousands of intersections. From there they will try to synchronize traffic flow in Dallas, and eventually use that same system across a 10-city region.
Highway funding: The Regional Transportation Council of the North Texas Council of Governments recently approved a resolution to fill a $1 billion funding gap. Just like it probably sounds, that is one of state’s biggest highway projects. The eastward expansion of Interstate 635 uses tolled lanes and had to receive the state’s approval to extend the use of tolls to pay that project. In this case it was crucial for the completion of that project.
Down the road, pun intended, the Texas Legislature is going to need to restore support for toll roads. Either that or Texas will continue to struggle with funding for years to come. Compared to New York though, tolls in North Texas are minuscule.
So there you have it – a bit of an infrastructure road map that also includes eminent domain. Now why can’t New York get it together?