Trinity Project: It’s Time for Plan B

I’ve written an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News describing “Plan B” for the Trinity Project:

Join me at a Dallas City Council meeting five years from now:

It’s 2014. Under Mayor Tom Leppert’s plan, the Trinity toll road should have opened last year, but its construction hasn’t even begun. It remains mired in federal safety analyses due to concerns about its effect on Dallas’ levees. The North Texas Tollway Authority bowed out in early 2011 when it determined it could not fund the now $2.4 billion project.

City staff reluctantly informs the council and mayor that there is no way to bridge the enormous funding gap. The buckets of money once touted to finance the road have been spent on other more critical transportation needs in the region. Less than half of the city’s $84 million in bond funds for the road remains.

Trinity levee improvements have not been completed. Not a shovel of dirt has been turned to bring the Trinity Park to life, and no lakes exist within the floodway. Now that plans for the park have been all but scrapped, the residential and mixed-use developments once planned along Industrial Boulevard have been abandoned.

The city manager chooses her words carefully, but the meaning is clear: The Trinity toll road is dead. With millions of taxpayer dollars and years of staff time wasted, the city must now reconcile itself to nearly two decades without a park, without levee enhancements and without traffic improvements.

That is our future, unless we act now. Before wasting another minute or spending another dime on what has clearly become an unworkable route, we can chart a new course. It’s time to implement a new plan – Plan B – premised on eliminating the toll road from the Trinity River floodway. Rather than continuing on a course that promises more delay and uncertainty, Plan B will allow us to move forward.

Here is my vision for Plan B:

1. Flood control

  • Fix our levees without further delay.

2. Transportation

  • Move forward immediately with TxDOT’s Project Pegasus, which will help unsnarl traffic in the Mixmaster and Canyon.

  • Fix Dead Man’s Curve in South Dallas and transform S.M. Wright into a beautiful boulevard.

  • Complete the Interstate 635 loop by connecting Interstate 20 with the western portion of Loop 12. This will give the Inland Port and NAFTA Trade Corridor traffic a simpler, faster route around downtown instead of through it.

  • Expedite mass transit alternatives that get cars off our congested downtown freeways. Work with DART to create additional light rail routes.

3. Trinity Park

  • Proceed with federal approval for the park lakes and quickly construct the planned trails.

  • Open it to residents by creating safe, protected pedestrian and bicycle routes to the park from downtown and Oak Cliff. Construct planned parking facilities in and near the park.

We can no longer allow the toll road’s delay and uncertainty to prevent Dallas from moving forward in addressing our transportation and flood control needs and in fulfilling the promise of a great park. Plan B will allow us to finally realize the dream of the Trinity River project.

Some city leaders refuse to acknowledge the need for Plan B, dismissing concerns about the toll road as defeatist. This approach appears less and less prudent as problems with the toll road compound and its billion-dollar funding gap grows.

I hope our city leadership will recognize the need to chart a new course, one that fulfills promises rather than defers them. We owe it to Dallas residents who have begun to lose faith in this project and our city government. Much has changed since the toll road referendum, and I’m ready to work with the mayor and the rest of the council to begin Plan B today.

Together, we can finally get the dirt flying on the Trinity River project.