The Trinity - It's more than a walk in the park
So much is at stake with the City of Dallas' referendum that's part of the November 6 ballot. So I'll say right now where I stand with regard to the vote on Trinity Parkway - a vital component of the landmark Trinity River Corridor Project - and I'll tell you why.
A campaign of misinformation has been presented by backers of the City referendum who oppose construction of a high-speed toll road to be built inside the Trinity River levees. In explaining the toll road opponents' position, I'll also tell you why that opposition rests on a shaky - if any - foundation.
Toll road opponents say a high-speed toll road will destroy the vision of a scenic recreational site. I wish more had seen how Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert put the toll road's footprint in perspective during a September 20 Town Hall Meeting I co-hosted on the subject, along with County Commissioner John Wiley Price. He gathered council members Linda Koop, Dave Neumann, Carolyn Davis, Ron Natinsky, Dwaine Caraway, Vonciel Jones Hill, Tennell Atkins - all who support the toll road - and others, about 10 in all, from the audience to form an arms length, line across the Yvonne A Ewell Townview Center auditorium. He asked one person to step forward. The depiction represented how much space the toll road would occupy relative to the proposed park. Factually, it's about 8 percent of available park space.
Toll road opponents say the much-needed reliever road is already over budget. Two points here: Dallas residents' contribution for the toll road is capped at $84 million, part of the $246 million bond package approved by voters in 1998. The majority of the costs of the entire project come from federal and state sources, including about 90 percent of the money for the toll road. Toll foes don't mention that those federal and state dollars are tied to relieving congestion and improving air quality and are at risk if the up to six-lane roadway is not built. Who pays for the opposition's proposal then?
Opponents also say the Trinity Corridor Project, including Trinity Parkway is behind schedule. So what happens when an alternate design using what is now Industrial Boulevard as proposed by Councilwoman Angela Hunt becomes the choice? The land occupied by hundreds of businesses along Industrial would have to be purchased, also evoking a time-consuming and unpopular process called eminent domain. Changing plans now will only produce more delays and even higher future construction costs.
Voters have been told that the proposed tollway will flood, but no mention is made of possible flooding of the low-speed alternative. A recommended modification would move the toll road away from its original design within the east levee wall, but at an elevation that doubles the 50-year flood standard required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A final reason heard to not build the toll road inside the levees is that, "It's never been done before!" Did that fear stop the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison or Dr. Daniel Hale Williams?
Anyone who regularly ventures into the downtown "Mixmaster," the merger of Interstates 30 and 35 know that congestion and accidents often rule the day. Any plans to relieve that congestion, or make improvements to I-35E-South headed into Oak Cliff and beyond depend on the ability to move traffic while those improvements take place. And due to the great needs and expenses connected with highway construction, any plans to add additional lane capacity or build new highways will include tolls or user fees.
On November 6, voters must be mindful that there are many interdependent factors to consider in any discussion of Trinity Parkway. It's not just a walk in the park.