Rodger Jones: Bad Editorial Writer, Masterful Shill For TxDOT

Dallas Morning News editorial writer Rodger Jones has recently taken time out of his busy schedule of taking world-weary selfies to write about the efforts to tear down Interstate 345. The first one — “Is I-345 teardown idea a chance to finance the Trinity River toll road?” — was a little safari to the magical land where paper tigers roam free, asking a question no one was asking, then answering it in a sort of confusing and terrible way, ending with him saying that the idea no one was talking about was a bad one because it would force commuters to take a toll road instead of a free route, and how dare anyone actually consider it, even though no one actually seems to be. He finished by pounding on the podium: “It’s called economic justice.”

But that one was actually OK! At least in comparison to his latest one: “Why doesn’t the S.M. Wright freeway teardown get urbanist publicity?” Our friend and occasional D Magazine contributor Patrick Kennedy tears down Jones’ central argument quicker and more efficiently than TxDOT got rid of S.M. Wright Freeway right here. I am only an amateur urban planner, but I also have some thoughts. The main one is: Rodger Jones is 100-percent shilling for TxDOT. Look here:

Last, maybe more people don’t know about [S.M. Wright] because TxDOT doesn’t blow its own horn in these kinds of categories. It’s an agency focused on process and numbers. The department’s S.M. Wright project home page says it all — government-issue plain, understated, utilitarian.

Can I retort? This is [redacted word] [redacted word]. I promise to you that if you ever find yourself talking to someone from TxDOT about I-345, and I have, they will bring up the agency’s efforts regarding S.M. Wright almost immediately. Maybe if you get sidetracked, it could take a couple of minutes. But they are super proud of this and never fail to share this as a “See? We’re not just about building highways! Look!” I can also promise you that, since the discussion regarding I-345 has heated up, they have been even quicker to bring this up, if that is even possible. Half of this column could have been written by TxDOT spokesman (and former DMN writer) Tony Hartzel. I’m not suggesting it was. I am saying that Hartzel would not mind a memo coming from his office saying everything in it. Did Hartzel bring it up to Jones? Well. I’m sure — or at least I hope — that Jones has talked to him, since he writes about transportation. I don’t write about transportation, but I did recently ask Hartzel a question about 345. Looking at my transcript, Hartzel brought up S.M. Wright Freeway around 100 words into his answer. Which I don’t mind at all, because that is Hartzel’s job. Go on offense with a story that spins TxDOT as a thoughtful, community-minded organization. It is not Jones’ job to parrot that back to readers.

As for the rest of his column, if you don’t have time to read it:
1) It begins with a link to an Atlantic Cities piece about how highways aren’t going anywhere that is so obviously biased (it’s written by a guy who has written five books, one of which is about the architects of the superhighway system and another is an ode to American car culture) it took about 10 minutes for me and Tim to fully debunk.
2) It big-ups the Morning News for being heroes for always bravely supporting the S.M. Wright teardown when others — filthy hippie urbanists, no doubt — weren’t paying attention because …
3) … they’re racist and don’t care about a part of town that’s not white or couldn’t be easily gentrified
4) And, as that Patrick Kennedy piece notes, it is almost all wrong, from overall premise to central argument.

Other than that, pretty good.