Enquiring Mind

Categories: Buzz

In this week's Buzz, which should appear online shortly, we take a brief look of some of the "truthy" -- i.e. bullshit -- arguments being made by proponents of the Trinity toll road. Let's cut through the crap and get some hard facts, Buzz suggests: If voters reject a highway between the levees come November, what will that really mean for cleaning up congestion in the Mixmaster downtown and for the new fancy-pants suspension bridge at Woodall Rodgers? And who can you trust to give you truthful answers?

Buzz turned to the Texas Department of Transportation, which -- ostensibly, at least -- has the facts and nothing but. Turns out we weren't alone. Council member Angela Hunt, leader of the anti-toll road folks, was asking TxDOT many of the same questions, so the agency shared her answers with us. How nice it is to have an elected representative who's willing to build her politics on objective information -- or at least as close as you're likely to get in this fight. Maybe The Dallas Morning News should consider hiring her.

Naah. She thinks too much. (She also, we can objectively say, both rocks and rules. She's like Laura Miller, minus the viciousness and before Miller slept with the pod people.)

Anyway, since we couldn't fit them in print, here are some e-mails Hunt exchanged with Tim Nesbitt, a project manager for TxDOT. As you can see from the bottom e-mail, it looks like TxDOT has a lot of 'splain' to do. (FYI: Project Pegasus is TxDOT's name for its planned massive fix for the Mixmaster and dowtown canyon.)

In this first e-mail, Hunt's initial questions have been bolded by Unfair Park, to make it easier to follow.

FROM: Timothy Nesbitt
TO: Angel Hunt

Councilmember Hunt,

Thank you for your inquiry...please review my following responses for your consideration:

>>> "Angela Hunt" 8/6/2007 4:17 PM >>>

Tim, thanks for talking with me today. I wanted to follow up on my questions regarding the Margaret Hunt Hill (Woodall Rodgers) Bridge.

What impact, if any, would the removal of the toll road from within
the levees have on the bridge?

No foreseen impact is anticipated for the signature bridge. One exception is the Parkway option which to date has not been supported; the landside Split-Parkway option where the Parkway is located on the land side of the levees. Due to desired ramps connecting this option to Woodall, the bridge itself would need to be converted to 8-lanes (beyond its current 6 lanes) in order to accomodate extensive traffic weaving between the ramps.

What impact, if any, would relocating the toll road on Industrial (at-grade) have on the bridge?

The ramps currently designed to connect the Woodall Extension to Industrial would be impacted. Widening Industrial to accomodate the Parkway will steepen these ramps to an unacceptable (unsafe) grade and therefore require their removal.

However, via the NTTA scenario for this Industrial option, broad-span loop ramps could possibly connect Woodall to Industrial, although nearby property owners and developable land would be impacted by these high-rise connections.

What impact, if any, would relocating the toll road on Industrial (elevated) have on the bridge?

The currently designed Woodall-Industrial ramps stated above are not expected to be impacted since this Parkway Option overpasses the entire Woodall Extension in a "triple-deck" scenario (Industrial-Woodall-Parkway). As described above, connecting this option to Woodall is envisioned via the broad-span loop scenario.

If the Trinity toll road were removed from within the levees, how would
that affect Project Pegasus (if at all)?

Installing the Parkway via Industrial would require a re-design of Project Pegasus. Due to steep ramping issues, the At-grade Industrial option would require removal of local access ramps (from I-35E and I-30 to Industrial). For example, the At-grade option locates Industrial closer to the levees in order to meet curvature guidelines and -- coupled with the Corps' desire to raise the levees -- I-35E ramp grades overpassing the levees and routing down to Industrial would be unacceptably short and steep.

Moreso, I-30 spanning the Trinity River, its levee and Industrial (and then underpassing the Houston Street Viaduct) is geometrically challenging but achieved via the Pegasus design. However, if Industrial is widened to accommodate the Parkway this same Pegasus I-30 vertical movement could be jeopardized by steep I-30 freeway grades overpassing a widened Industrial before underpassing the close-proximity Houston Viaduct.

How extensively Pegasus must (or can) be redesigned remains to be seen ... melding the Elevated Industrial Parkway option with the elevated Pegasus ramps requires a close look; key interaction being the placement of bridge columns such as not to impact underlying streets and driveways versus maximum (acceptable) bridge beam lengths.

All said, the Parkway-Industrial options occur in the heart of the Mixmaster, a location where many traffic movements and local access ramp issues spell a delicate geometric-property owner balance which thus far has been met with past Public Involvement consensus.

Thank you,

Angela


Hunt then followed up with several more questions:

Tim, I appreciate your providing the facts so quickly. As you might imagine, it is difficult to get objective facts on this issue because so many parties involved have a dog in the hunt. Since TxDOT really doesn't have a vested interest here, it is very helpful to get facts from an objective source.

I don't mean to load you down with questions, but I do have some follow-up questions if you don't mind.

4. Would the removal of the toll road from within the levees change the timeline of the CONSTRUCTION of Project Pegasus? (On this question, I am not assuming a realignment along Industrial, just the removal of the toll road from the levees.) If so, how?

5. If the toll road were relocated on Industrial (either elevated or at-grade) would that change the timeline of the CONSTRUCTION of Project Pegasus? Since the project is still in design phase, I'm just trying to understand if moving the toll road would delay the actual construction phase. Would relocating the toll road increase the cost of Project Pegasus?

6. Would removing the toll road from the levees jeopardize any state or federal funding for Project Pegasus?

7. Is the Trinity toll road eligible for TxDOT or federal funding? My understanding is that it is not because it will not carry enough vehicles.

8a. With regards to my original question about the Margaret Hunt Hill (Woodall Rodgers) Bridge, would the vertical construction of the bridge be delayed at all if the toll road were removed from the levees?

8b. Would the timeline for construction of the bridge change at all if the toll road were not built within the levees?

8c. The ramp connections between the bridge and the toll road as currently proposed are as yet undecided, correct? My understanding is that the Corps has not yet signed off on the toll road's final location within the levees, so it seems the actual ramps couldn't be designed yet. Is that right?

8d. You mention that "The ramps currently designed to connect the Woodall Extension to Industrial would be impacted" if the toll road were relocated to Industrial. But the bridge design itself would not be impacted, right? And the bridge construction wouldn't be impacted either, correct? Just the ramps leading to the bridge?

9. Who is supervising the construction of this bridge? TxDOT or the City of Dallas (or both)?

10. Will the City of Dallas lose any state or federal funding for either (1) the Trinity Parkway, or (2) any proposed new bridges if the toll road is not built within the levees?

11. Will moving the toll road out of the levees otherwise have any effect on any state or federal funding for Dallas transportation projects?

12. Will moving the toll road out of the levees delay the construction of any TxDOT transportation projects in Dallas?

13. How many additional vehicles will Project Pegasus support (compared to today)? (I looked, but couldn't find this info anywhere on the PP website or pdfs.)

14. Is Project Pegasus dependent on the construction of the Trinity toll road?


Those questions prompted this:

Councilmember Hunt,

In the interest of all-inclusively reviewing the multiple, coordinated (project) solutions proposed by the region for the Dallas CBD, I suggest convening a meeting to clearly dispense the project facts, as well as address past misinformation that has arisen on each project. This meeting could entail graphic exhibits which are otherwise difficult to prose (interpret) by simple email.

Suggested meeting attendees would include TxDOT, NTTA and the NCTCOG.

Feel free to contact me at your convenience to coordinate a meeting time and location. Thank you and I look forward to our future coordination.

Sincerely,

Tim Nesbitt, PE
TxDOT-Dallas District


Looks like Schutze has a long day ahead of him. --Patrick Williams

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