North Texas May Benefit From Federal Infrastructure Deal

Planners list possible projects

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North Texas stands to benefit from the big federal infrastructure plan tentatively agreed to in Washington a key transportation planner said.

But one critic of past deals said he is worried about the chance for waste and delays.

President Joe Biden will hit the road Tuesday to promote the $973 billion plan to improve transit and broadband and fix aging roads and bridges.

North Texas has outdated facilities in line for replacement according to North Central Texas Council of Governments Transportation Director Michael Morris.

“We’re excited about where this is headed,” Morris said. “All parties are desperate to reach conclusion. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, everyone says, ‘Look, our infrastructure is aging. This time we’ve got to do something.’ And I think it lends itself very well to the initiatives we’ve done within the Dallas Fort Worth region.”

As examples, he mentioned proposals the remove the elevated I-345 bridge that divides downtown from Deep Ellum and reconstruction of the I-30 Canyon that divides downtown and the Cedars neighborhood.

Morris said Biden Administration transportation philosophy supports those projects.

“If we're going to build transportation, why can we build transportation that provides mobility, safety, reknits neighborhoods,” Morris said.

He doubts the City of Dallas would get its wish to solve an entire $2 billion backlog of bad sidewalks.

“But I think the federal government is going to come in and say we need to invest in our neighborhoods, which includes sidewalks,” Morris said.

Broadband access for areas without it, transit improvements that could benefit DART rail and proposed high-speed rail from Dallas to Houston could also benefit from the deal Washington is still hammering out.

The Texas Central high-speed rail project was to be entirely funded with private investment.

“I’m personally skeptical of the ability of private people to finance a high-speed rail. Rail is really expensive,” said Philip K. Howard with watchdog group Campaign for the Common Good.

Howard voiced concerns about long delays in producing results as members of Congress haggle about details.

“The areas are competing against each other and what happens is, that just slows the whole thing down because it becomes this horse-trading,” Howard said.

His organization supports in independent commission to choose projects.

“It would be a non-partisan group that would actually oversee the implementation, permitting, the picking of the projects and also the execution,” Howard said.

Morris said the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Regional Transportation Council already provide non-partisan review of projects for this metropolitan area, with shovel ready projects lined up.

“Our region is really ready to proceed,” Morris said.

But Morris supports another of the proposals to cut red tape and reduce delays.

“Not to get rid of environmental review, but to have clear lines of authority so you don't spend 20,000 pages reviewing a project that everybody knows has no environmental impact,” Howard said.

Rules of the game are still in play as Congress debates the infrastructure plan.

President Biden said it will create millions of jobs.  He will go to Wisconsin Tuesday promoting the tentative deal.

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