So NOW Can We Move Forward on Plan B?

On Monday, the Mayor held a press conference, flanked by Senator Hutchison and Congresswoman Johnson, to deftly spin the sorry state of our levees into a positive, uplifting tale called “The Path Forward.”

Here’s what happened: Dallas has got this man-made channel of greenspace called a “floodway” where all the run-off water in the city goes. If it goes down into a storm drain, it ends up in the Trinity Floodway. The floodway has these earthen mounds running along it — levees — that are intended to keep that water in the channel and prevent it from breaking through or topping over, resulting in injury to people and property.

Since Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the arm of the federal government that inspects levees — has come up with new standards to try to avoid another Katrina-like catastrophe. As a result of their revised standards, the Corps recently gave Dallas’ levees an “unacceptable” rating. That’s a failing grade in Corps-ese. The consequence is that the city has to fix the levees to meet the Corps’ new standards. Continue reading

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Great Primer on the Trinity River Project

Ian Dille of the Texas Observer wrote an excellent article on the Trinity River Corridor Project. Read it here.

One of the most interesting points is Dille’s discussion with Alex Krieger, one of the urban designers brought in to develop the Trinity’s “Balanced Vision Plan” for then-Mayor Laura Miller:

Krieger tells me, “If [the Trinity Parkway’s] a highway, there is no balanced vision. It will be tragic. This is where I felt I was being used. We always felt the highway guys were just playing along with us, hoping we would go away, then they would expand the road again.”

Krieger imagined a road that functioned within the context of the park first, and within the city’s transportation plan second, and recalls that at one point he told state Department of Transportation and toll authority engineers, “there are already 19 lanes of traffic through Dallas. If that’s not enough, 23 won’t solve your problem either.”

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

Last Night’s Trinity Meeting

Last night, the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Dept. of Transportation held a “public hearing” on the location for the Trinity Toll Road. I put “public hearing” in quotes because (1) you can’t see me doing air quotes, which are obnoxious anyway, and (2) it was anything but a public hearing.

I won’t use the word “sham” because it’s loaded and a little heavy-handed. But here’s what happened: Continue reading

Trinity Toll Road Public Hearing on Tuesday, May 5

In recent months, several facts have come to light that suggest that Dallas should reconsider its decision to locate the Trinity Toll Road in our city’s floodway.

First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that Dallas’ levees failed to meet their new, post-Katrina safety standards. The Corps also discovered sand in our levees, which presents a problem for toll road construction. Further, the Corps indicated concerns about allowing the toll road’s large concrete piers to pierce the levees, which could weaken them.

In addition, the North Texas Tollway Authority acknowledged that there is a billion dollar funding gap for the toll road. No additional funding sources have been identified. Continue reading

Plan B Clarification: Connecting I-20 to Loop 12 Via Walton Walker

I’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback from my Trinity River Project Plan B editorial in today’s DMN, but a couple of people have pointed out that my editorial is a bit unclear on one point.

In the editorial, I recommend we close the I-635 loop on the west side of the city by linking the western portion of Loop 12 to I-20. A couple of folks were quick to point out the fact that Loop 12 already connects to I-20 via Spur 408.

They are correct, of course, but I was proposing a different route, one along Walton Walker Boulevard. Continue reading

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. Continue reading