The environmental activists are at it again.
On Monday, a group of anti-growth activists, known as Rethink I-35, filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Texas Department of Transportation’s “planned expansion of Interstate 35 through central Austin,” which is intended to help alleviate massive traffic congestion. According to the Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute (TTI), “the stretch of I-35 from US 290 West and Ben White Boulevard to US 290 East is…the fourth most congested roadway in Texas.”
Despite people and goods being endlessly stuck on I-35, the activists want to slam the brakes on the proposed project—and for the most ridiculous of reasons too.
According to the Austin American-Statesman:
“The lawsuit raises concerns about the project’s possible effects on Austin’s traditionally economically disadvantaged and nonwhite neighborhoods, particularly in East Austin. Further expansion of I-35 builds on the highway’s past as a dividing line used to further racist policies that were harmful to minorities in the decades since it was built, the lawsuit claims.” [emphasis mine]
In other words, Rethink I-35 believes roadway expansion promotes racism. Or some such.
Of course, this is a ludicrous contention. Roads are not racist. But what makes their argument even more nonsensical is that progressivism, which is the ideological core that animates the group’s actions, has done more to harm minorities than anything else. Progressive policies are directly responsible for chasing people of low and modest means out of the urban core, given the city of Austin’s relentless embrace of tax increases, government regulation, interference in the housing market, and NIMBY-ism.
And the city’s own data supports such a claim. Consider that as Austin has lurched further and further leftward over the years, fewer and fewer African-Americans have been noted as living in in the city proper. From the city’s website:
“It has been found that Austin is the only major growth city (a city with over half a million people that saw at least 10 percent growth between 2000 and 2010) that experienced an absolute loss in its African-American population (UT Austin 2014). The Census report a significant decrease from a 11.9% share in 1990, to 9.8% in 2000, and finally to a low of 7.7% reported in 2010.”
The city of Austin goes on further to note that the situation today has not improved either, saying: “As of 2021, the percentage of Austin population that is African American was 7.57%…”
A similar hollowing out of Austin’s Hispanic community is happening too. Consider this excerpt from the Austin American-Statesman:
“Hispanic families…move to places they can afford, but because they still work in Austin, their destinations tend to be neighboring Travis County communities such as Del Valle or Manor, or places adjacent to the county, such as Buda in Hays County or areas near the Williamson County line.”
Thus, progressive policies are causing affordability issues. Those affordability issues are forcing minority communities out of the urban core and into the suburbs and beyond. But like many others, Austin’s exiled minority groups still work in-and-around the city center, meaning they stand to benefit greatly from any and all roadway expansion.
This is a point that needs to be driven home.