High-speed toll road is still the plan for Trinity River

photo by Danny Fulgencio
photo by Danny Fulgencio

The committee tasked with vetting the “dream team” version of the Trinity Parkway plan told City Council Monday that most of the plan is feasible.

Council members are a bit more wary of Trinity River proposals in 2016. Some members demanded more public input and questioned why the city should want a toll road in the Trinity River levees. City Council must decide whether to spend up to $3 million to complete 65 percent of the road’s design.

Of 20 points the dream team made, this new committee declared that nine of them are feasible and require no changes.

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Keep in mind that all of this is for a first phase of the road. A second phase would double the size of the dream team’s “meandering” roadway and turn it into the same high-speed toll road that’s been suggested since 1999.

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The committee suggested the following changes:

  1. Allow a maximum speed limit of 45 miles per hour
  2. Make the road a total of four lanes, with grassy shoulders
  3. Build fewer on/off ramps
  4. Ban trucks and provide a U-turn point within the parkway
  5. Allow on-street parking during low-traffic hours and for special events
  6. Create wider meanders, so that when the high-speed toll road is built out eventually, the old road can be used for park access
  7. Plant trees and landscaping along the roadway (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not approved planting trees or landscaping in the floodway)
  8. Use creative design elements to break up the monotony of blank walls along the roadway
  9. The dream team plan had called for building the road within a 10- or -25-year flood wall, but the Corps of Engineers requires 100-year flood walls

Former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt was part of the new committee, and she declined to sign off on their findings. She and state Rep. Raphael Anchia instead wrote a dissent.

Anchia called the plan for a high-speed toll road “violence” against the Trinity River parkland.

“There will be incredible pressure to make this road faster,” Hunt said.

They suggested a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour, and Hunt warned that once the road is 65 percent designed, it will be very difficult to change course.

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The dream team report called the parkland its design client. Everything should be designed with sensitivity to the park, it said.

Anchia pointed out the fallacy there: If the park is the client, then a “dream team” panel of urban design experts would not put a highway through the middle of it.

“The client has to swallow a highway and look really good doing it,” he said.

City Councilman Scott Griggs questioned why, if the park is the design client, no one from the city’s Park and Recreation Department was present at the meeting. He also questioned a claim from assistant city manger Mark McDaniel that a toll road within the floodway would reduce traffic on Interstate 30 and Interstate 35 by 25 percent. Previous traffic studies have shown that the traffic relief would be negligible.

“No project has been more secretive,” than this one, Griggs says. We ought to be spending $3 million to fix the streets we have rather than spending it to design a new road on behalf of the for-profit North Texas Tollway Authority, he said.

Council member Sandy Greyson said that Mayor Mike Rawlings wants to hear more input from the public before moving forward.

Council member Mark Clayton said he wanted to see best-case and worst-case scenarios of what the city would be allowed to build inside the levees before deciding.

One Council member, Rickey Callahan, said he still favors a high-speed toll road to alleviate traffic for residents of his district in South Dallas and Pleasant Grove.

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