Trinity Toll Road Update

Just a few updates on the Trinity Toll Road, for those playing along at home:

First up, excerpts from Michael Lindenberger’s article in the Dallas Morning News, “U.S. postpones decision on Trinity toll road to evaluate levee problems”:

Problems with the Trinity River levees have prompted the Federal Highway Administration to postpone a decision about where to build the controversial Trinity toll road….The agency will take until April or May reviewing how the levees’ problems could affect the toll road’s cost or environmental impact….On the toll road, [FHWA Texas Division Chief Janice] Brown said, the FHWA will weigh any additional costs associated with putting the road between the levees when it issues its final decision….”Additional costs will be a factor,” Brown said. “But we don’t yet know how much more the road will cost as a result of the levees.” If costs for building the road between the levees become too high, that could prompt the agency to order the route changed or cancel it altogether.

The FHWA’s new study comes after the agency spent years evaluating the toll road’s alternative routes as part of its draft environmental impact statement….

Once the new report is issued, the FHWA will open a period of public comment – a lengthy process that requires the agency and its partners, including the North Texas Tollway Authority, to respond to every comment related to the proposed toll road. Such responses can take months, or longer, depending on their volume and complexity.

Next, over on the DMN Opinion Blog, Editor Sharon Grigsby discusses “Trinity Fatigue“: “Today the Federal Highway Administration makes headlines with the news that it is postponing its decision on where to build the toll road because of the levee problems….It’s been eight years or more since now former Dallas Morning News reporter and Trinity expert Victoria Loe Hicks warned us that, with so many agencies in the approval process, it would be a miracle if they could ever all get on the same page.” She asked Ms. Hicks about her assessment of the current situation:

There’s a word for creating a new product from scratch or creating a product in a radically new way that has never been tried before: prototype.

Whether building a high speed toll road in a floodway is a good idea or a bad idea, it’s never been done before, so the Trinity (so-called) Parkway is a prototype. And, as anyone familiar with R&D will tell you, prototypes are expensive and time consuming. Not sometimes, always. It takes time and money to solve problems never before solved, and all prototypes encounter unforeseen problems.

So what did the TP’s backers tell us? That building this prototype would be the quickest, cheapest way to relieve congestion on Stemmons. There’s a word for claims that run directly counter to logic and experience: nuts.

Lastly, excerpts from Sunday’s DMN frontpage report: “Corps’ caution on Trinity collides with desire to go forward“:

Dallas’ most complex and aggressive public works project ever is mired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ concerns about something in the Trinity River bottoms as old and common as dirt. Sand, to be exact….Their worry: Water could seep through the sand and undermine the levees. Construction could also create gaps in the hard clay covering the flood works, and a big-enough flood could force enough water through the sand and erode the levees from within….So the city recently extended the Trinity project’s timetable by 20 months to analyze the soil.