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Transportation

In Texas, Toll Roads or Flood Preparedness?

The state is spending billions on toll roads when it should be investing in flood infrastructure.
Texas residents flee a flooded apartment building on April 18, 2016.
Texas residents flee a flooded apartment building on April 18, 2016.David J. Phillip/AP

The Grand Parkway, Houston’s third and outermost ring road, is looking at a record year. Three major segments of Texas state highway 99 opened for business in 2016—and business is good. Since tolling began on the most recently completed arc of Grand Parkway, a segment that threads the city’s northwest suburbs between U.S. 290 and I-45, toll transactions have more than doubled. Revenue has climbed from $2.7 million in January to $4.4 million in February, the month that tolls opened.

By its completion in 2023, the Grand Parkway will form a 180-mile-long ring encircling greater metro Houston. The highway is a wonder of the world, of a sorts: As the Houston Chronicle helpfully demarcates, the Grand Parkway is large enough to circumscribe all of greater London and Paris, the entire Baltimore-Washington, D.C., megalopolis region, and the whole damned state of Rhode Island. The Grand Parkway is filthily large, the apotheosis of sprawl.