TXDOT Data: Project Pegasus Superior to Trinity Toll Road

Two months ago, we received revelatory information from TxDOT about the Trinity Toll Road:  Project Pegasus — the transportation project that will rebuild and add capacity to Lower Stemmons, the Canyon, and the Mixmaster/Horseshoe — could be constructed without the Trinity Toll Road.

Given today’s reality of limited transportation dollars, it is doubtful that both the Trinity Toll Road and Project Pegasus will both be funded anytime in the near future.  We will be lucky if we are able to construct one of these projects.  With this in mind, the question is, which project should be built first?

Councilmembers Sandy Greyson, Scott Griggs, and I sought to answer this question, and a month ago, we requested very specific data from TxDOT to compare the projects. We asked for data for five build scenarios: Current Conditions (2010) and four future conditions – No Build, Both Built, Trinity Only, and Pegasus Only. We requested that all responses be based on previously produced documents and that no new data be created (in an attempt to avoid data manipulation).

Mayor Rawlings passed on our request to TxDOT.  Afterwards, it was announced that the NTTA and the Regional Transportation Council — both staunch Trinity Toll Road advocates — would “assist” TxDOT in gathering the data.

We received the underlying data earlier this week and began to thoroughly analyze it.

TxDOT’s data shows that Project Pegasus is superior to the Trinity Toll Road in every metric – it moves more cars, faster, with less congestion, for less money:

Project Pegasus Only Trinity Toll Road Only
Add’l Cars Moved 126,033 to 260,900* 100,000 to 142,000
Average Speed 35 mph 30 mph
Level of Service D-F on Lower Stemmons

F on Horseshoe

F on Canyon

F on Lower Stemmons

F on Horseshoe

F on Canyon

D-E on Trinity Toll Road

Congestion Hours 44,917 67,982
Lane Miles at Level of Service “F” 46% 49%
Cost $602 M to $1.2 B** $1.47 B

But you wouldn’t know that Pegasus is the superior project by reading TxDOT’s accompanying narrative and the two charts that purport to “summarize” the back-up data. The narrative and summary charts conclude that the Toll Road is the better project.  The summary and charts are misleading, inaccurate, and they don’t reflect the conclusions of the underlying data.

Here are the major problems with TxDOT’s narrative and summary charts:

  1. Their fundamental flaw is using the wrong build scenario to draw their conclusions. They use the “Both Built” scenario instead of comparing “Trinity Only” to “Pegasus Only.”  The Both Built scenario reduces the impact of Project Pegasus since some of the cars are traveling on the Trinity.
  2. They compare the roads’ hypothetical capacity instead of the actual traffic that the roads are projected to carry. This inflates the Trinity’s impact because its capacity exceeds the actual traffic it will carry.
  3. They are inconsistent in their methodology for determining additional capacity of each road.  To calculate how much additional capacity the whole system will have if both components – Trinity and Pegasus – are built, they take the SUM of the components:  Trinity + Pegasus = Total System Capacity.  BUT, to calculate how much additional capacity will be created by the Pegasus System, they AVERAGE the components:  Lower Stemmons + Horseshoe + Canyon / 3 = Total Pegasus System Capacity.  That significantly reduces the impact of Pegasus since the average is less than the sum.
  4. Lastly, when they calculate the overall cost of each project, they inflate the cost of Pegasus by including the already-funded Horseshoe project. This makes the Trinity appear cheaper by comparison.

When we use the proper scenarios (Trinity Only vs. Pegasus Only), use real traffic data, and a consistent methodology for determining added capacity/traffic, TxDOT’s own data indicates that Pegasus comes out ahead in every metric. That’s what makes TxDOT’s contradictory conclusions — and the mayor’s reliance on those conclusions — so troubling.

Deciding which project to build will impact Dallas’ transportation system for decades to come.  It is far too important a decision to be based upon faulty, internally inconsistent, and biased information.  For that reason, we ask the mayor to join us in calling for an independent analysis of TxDOT’s data.

__________________________________________________

*We calculated the added traffic of Project Pegasus using both methodologies used by TXDOT: For the low end, we averaged all three components; for the high end, we added the components (we excluded the Horseshoe to avoid duplicating cars already counted on Lower Stemmons and the Canyon).

**$1.2 B if the remainder of Project Pegasus is built (Canyon and all of Lower Stemmons from I-30 to 183); $602 M if only the Canyon and Lowest Stemmons (I-30 to Dallas North Tollway) are built.

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D Magazine: “Let’s Ditch the Trinity River Toll Road”

Wow.

If you haven’t read D Magazine‘s most recent article on the Trinity Toll Road, go out and buy the August issue — the one with Dirk on the cover — right now.  I’ll wait.

Ok, you’re too lazy (or cheap) for that, I get it.  Go the freebie route instead:  Head on over to D’s website and check out this bit of amazement:  “Let’s Ditch the Trinity River Toll Road:  It’s time to get on with a new plan for the park project we were promised.”

You read that right.  You were expecting maybe “Let’s Keep Hoping and Wishing for the Trinity Toll Road:  It Just Might Happen,” but no, D Magazine threw us all a curve ball.  Instead we got four solid reasons to abandon the road and get moving on the park:

1.  The Trinity Project’s funding does not depend on the toll road.

2. There’s no money to build it.

3.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is never going to approve it.

4.  Highways are bad for cities.

The piece is very well written by new D scribe Michael Mooney.  (And no, I don’t just say that because he wrote “Hunt has been right all along when it comes to the toll road.”  But that particular line was particularly well written.  Kudos, Mike.)  The only thing missing was an acknowledgment that The Dallas Observer‘s Jim Schutze has been right about the road since it was first proposed, but that may have been too much to ask for.

I know Jim and Buzz at The Observer are not as enthusiastic about this article as I am — noting that it didn’t come from publisher Wick Allison hisownself and there was no mea maxima culpa — but that didn’t bother me and here’s why:  This position represents a profound sea change for D Magazine.  D has long been one of the primary cheerleaders for this road and a good barometer for the powers-that-be.  If D is confident enough to take this unequivocal stand, that means the support for this road has all but evaporated.

Now, according to D, we should look at modern transportation alternatives and get moving on the park:

Scrapping the road won’t speed up the parks and the lakes. Nor will it delay them. And there’s good news: because the original bond involved so many aspects of development, the money that remains can be redirected to other parts of the project. It can be used to get a fresh, 21st-century take on better transportation options.

History will show that the vote to build this toll road was a mistake. An expensive error, sure, but hardly the city’s worst. Now it’s time to move on.

I couldn’t agree more.

Potholes on Lemmon Avenue

If you’ve driven on Lemmon Avenue recently, I hope your suspension has not been completely destroyed.

The worst area on Lemmon is between the toll road and Inwood, which has tons of terrible potholes, one after another, which have been exacerbated by recent weather. (It’s not that it’s smooth as silk elsewhere; it’s just particularly bad on this section.)

Crews are working on filling literally hundreds of potholes on Lemmon, and they anticipate it’ll take a week or longer to finish. I’ll be monitoring.

Bike to City Hall Was a Great Success!

This morning’s Bike to City Hall event — part of Dallas’ week-long bicycling event, Cyclesomatic — was a great success!  I was worried it was going to rain and have to be postponed, but luckily, the weather agreed with us, and we had a terrific turn-out.

My husband and I biked from our home in the M Streets, down the Katy Trail (where we met others heading to City Hall), then met with the larger group at Union Station.  There were well over a hundred cyclists, from road warriors to slow riders to everyone in between.  Bicyclists came from East Dallas, Oak Cliff, Plano, Uptown, University Park, and elsewhere.  Five other councilmembers joined in the fun — Pauline Medrano, Sheffie Kadane, Jerry Allen, Dave Neumann, Delia Jasso, and Ann Margolin.

At around 8:30 a.m., we rode from Union Station to City Hall, where our master of ceremonies, Jason Roberts, thanked everyone for coming.  All the councilmembers welcomed the group to City Hall and discussed the importance of creating a more bicycle-friendly city via better infrastructure and education.

I mentioned the city’s new bike plan update as well as our complete streets initiative, to create a multi-modal infrastructure that isn’t solely focused on moving cars, but is rebalanced to move cyclists, pedestrians, and the disabled in an inviting, safe way.

We also reassured our road warrior friends that separated bike facilities would not force cyclists to ride there: cyclists who feel comfortable in traffic will continue to have that option.  We just want to expand options for folks who may have a different tolerance and comfort level in traffic.  It’s all about options, education, safety, and better infrastructure.

My hat is off to Jason Roberts and his team who did an amazing job planning this event.  I look forward to seeing everyone next year, as we begin to transform Dallas from one of the worst cities for cyclists into one of the best.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures!

Bike with Me to City Hall on October 7

Dallas currently has the dubious distinction of being the “Worst City in the US for Bicycling,” but we’re working to change that.  Join me on Wednesday, October 7 as we “Bike to City Hall” and unveil some of the initiatives that will help transform our city into a bike-friendly destination.

The City of Dallas, in cooperation with DART, the City Parks Department, and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff invites everyone to bicycle to City Hall to promote greater bicycle awareness on the morning of October 7.  Councilmembers will leave from Union Station at 8AM and bicycle down Young Street to City Hall. Meet up with me at Union Station so we can ride together.

Afterward, we’ll introduce the city’s new bicycle coordinator, update everyone on the city’s new bike plan, and unveil upcoming initiatives that embrace Complete Streets policies. Complete Streets are streets designed to provide safe access for all users — not just cars. Developing multi-modal streets improves safety, eases transportation flow, improves air quality, and promotes the overall health of communities that have adopted them.

Please join me and pass this on to bicycling groups that may be interested in participating.

Tell the Feds What You Think About Trinity Toll Road

As part of the federal government’s evaluation of the Trinity Toll Road, they must take public comment. If you didn’t get a chance to attend the “public hearing” last month, you can still provide written comment (which will be included in the public record) through June 30. Here’s the NTTA press release: Continue reading

Central Realignment in Downtown

After several months of work, the Council passed a new alignment for Central Expressway.

The part of Central Expressway we’re talking about is not the elevated portion, but the part that is a city street in Downtown. From Commerce to the Farmers Market, Central is a nice two-way boulevard with a green, treed median. But from Commerce to Live Oak, the street narrows and becomes one-way, creating a complicated and arguably dangerous entry to Downtown.

The new alignment will remove part of Pearl Street that divides a Downtown park, and widen Central to create a two-way boulevard. Rather than moving forward with the proposed alignment (which was 9 lanes of concrete), I asked Downtown Dallas and Larry Good to help redesign the road to make it greener and more pedestrian-friendly. Thanks to their help, we now have a better entry to Downtown, and an expanded park.

[mappress]