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The Sunbelt’s Transportation Priorities Are Going the Wrong Way

As growing cities like Dallas, Austin and Atlanta sprawl, they often invest in high-cost transit and highway projects that ignore their residents’ immediate needs. 

Transportation investments in Atlanta are often aimed at highways in far-flung, sparsely settled suburbs rather than the city itself, limiting their impact. 

Transportation investments in Atlanta are often aimed at highways in far-flung, sparsely settled suburbs rather than the city itself, limiting their impact. 

Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg 

As many U.S. cities in the Sunbelt continue to see massive amounts of sprawling housing growth, local and state transportation authorities are making big investments. Austin, for example, is planning to spend about $8 billion on reconstructing a freeway near downtown and several more billions on a new light rail network.

But as I explain in a new Manhattan Institute report, many of the investments these boomtowns are making share a few common drawbacks. Many completed and planned Sunbelt light rail investments are poorly designed and are not likely to get much ridership. Highway expansions, for their part, are often geared toward serving new exurban developments — where there are fewer job opportunities available for working- and lower-class residents — rather than increasing transportation capacity where it is most needed near existing jobs and housing.