Jeff has a separate post about the Trinity Tollroad, and he’s kind of back-handed about this. But I say give the Dallas Morning News a little credit here: They seemed to have bought the whole Trinity Tollroad story hook, line and sinker during the runup to the November 2007 referendum. But now, four years later, it’s the DMN that is blowing the whistle on what appear to be some pretty misleading statements Trinity Tollroad backers made when hyping the project.
After a series of Freedom of Information act filings and a two-year effort by the News, several thousand emails and other documents recently were released that indicate the Tollroad in the Trinity River levee was unlikely to ever be approved by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which runs counter to what former Mayor Tom Leppert told us at the time:
“The Corps and certain urban planners had told the city their concerns and that changes needed to be made,” chief Trinity opponent Angela Hunt told the DMN. “But that didn’t keep Tom Leppert from proclaiming that the corps had signed off, and that the toll road was paid for. This came up frequently (during the referendum debates). It would be very — how can I put it? — almost an offhand remark by the mayor. ‘Look,’ he would say, ‘there is nothing to worry about. Everything is fine with the Corps, and we’ve got the money, and there’s nothing to worry about.”
The DMN story, which is linked here but is behind the newspaper’s paywall, goes into lengthy detail about how the Corps, the City, the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation coordinated their messages during the referendum, with no one in the group blowing the whistle if someone stretched the truth while talking with voters.
As we know now, the Tollway was never fully funded (as Leppert repeatedly promised during the referendum debates) and the Corps never actually approved even the concept of building the roadway in the Trinity River levee, much less the road’s design, also as Leppert repeatedly represented to voters. As things stand now, the DMN story says, the Corps won’t even decide whether the road can be built in the levee until 2014, at the earliest, and there’s a pretty good chance the Corps may never actually make that favorable ruling, owing to political concerns about what happened to the New Orleans levees during the Katrina hurricane.
It’s not difficult to imagine that if voters had been told the truth, some of the 53 percent who voted in favor of the Tollway could have voted against it instead. And it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to think that, had voters believed they were duped on the Tollway, perhaps some would have been less trusting of the same cast of characters (in large part) who led the battle to have the convention center hotel approved by voters a few years later, too.
I voted against both projects, as those of you who are longtime readers of this blog likely remember, and I realize bringing all of this up again probably seems like sour grapes and whining. It’s just disappointing that the Tollway discussion was so one-sided and so misleading that voters didn’t receive enough truth to understand what we were voting against — or for.