Good News About the Trinity Toll Road: Eventually, We All Die

Categories: Schutze

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At some point during last evening's North Texas Tollway Authority/Texas Department of Transportation Incredibly Boring Event, I realized I was having almost as much fun seeing all the same old pro-toll road partisans again as I was running into my fellow usual-suspect road-haters.

These things have become high school reunions. You shake hands and say, "Still out here pimping for Alternative 3C, eh? Well what ever happened with your aneurism?"

Last night's shindig was one of those legally required public hearings where they do one PowerPoint presentation after another, kind of like a brutal fraternity hazing event to see how many old people they can make fall out of their chairs. I was wide awake, my friends, even though I did have to depart sort of suddenly when I felt a possible coma coming on. Robert Wilonsky left at the same time.

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The final public hearing on the Trinity toll road will now come to order ...
Some of us have been meeting at these Trinity River project deals since 1997. I looked at the modest crowd gathered in the very gloomy old convention arena -- now a mere mass somewhere in the bowels of the hugely metastasized Dallas Convention Center -- and tried to count how many of the people present had been in elementary school when this all started. Too many. Gave up.

I was sitting next to Wilonsky, trying to give him pointers on how to cover a news event. He whispered to me, "I saw the Jackson Five here." The mind wanders.

When a public debate on a single issue runs this long, the people on both sides really get to know each other over time. Inevitably, familiarity begins to breed respect. You know how they think over on that side of the aisle. It's just how they are. They can't change their stripes, poor dear things.

When Dallas Chamber President Jim Oberwetter spoke in favor of the road -- well, that would be Ambassador James C. Oberwetter now, actually -- I thought to myself, "That was a nice little talk, Jim."

Nobody can make a more gracious speech than Oberwetter in favor of building a huge, stinking, toxin-spewing, unneeded, nightmare expressway on top of the river that is the city's only significant natural geographic feature. I mean it.

It's sort of awkward having Wilonsky over on the other side of the newspaper fence. He's talking to me at one point, and then he runs over and chats up Michael A. Lindenberger, who's writing the main coverage for the paper where Robert now works, called The Dallas Morning News. Well, see, Lindenberger and I don't really speak, so Robert running back and forth puts us both in an awkward position where we have to look at Robert but also at our shoes. Robert, shoes, Robert, shoes.

Oh, well. That's sort of high school, too, isn't it? It's kind of fun.

I was cheered and heartened to see that Lindenberger got it all wrong in his story this morning, as per usual. He said the road opponents merely trotted out their same tired old re-tread arguments against the road, which is of course and as we would expect, total bullshit. Seeing how wrong he got it made me feel like Tevye. I wanted to begin belting out, "Tradition!"

Council members Sandy Greyson, Scott Griggs and Angela Hunt (whom I list alphabetically but not in order of their appearance) all raised a new case against the road -- it may even be the killer-app of all anti-road arguments -- something I also treat in my column in this week's newspaper, which will go online later today. There's a better, cheaper, more effective way to reduce congestion downtown -- fixing the freeways we already have.

The big frisson going around the room last night was about the gas drilling map that Unfair Park has already outted to you this morning, showing that the city may grant drilling rights to a gas-fracking company for wells in the greenbelt along the Trinity River.

Randy Lee Loftis has a good quote in a Morning News story this morning from longtime gas person David Biegler saying basically that gas wells along the Trinity will be no worse than garbage dumps, which Biegler apparently believes are what line the river now. Ah, another Park Cities Boy Scout.

We could get all in a lather. We could talk about the volumes it speaks. But, you know, really, that's just how they are over on that side, isn't it? I didn't see Biegler last night. I wonder if he's stayed in shape. I bet he has.

It's not over. In fact, after last night -- too late to change my column in the paper -- I even decided the column is a bit too pessimistic. In it I say I think the road may get done after all. Now I'm thinking maybe not.

But here's what I really think. At some point in the ultimate future, this thing will be resolved for most of us, not because the question of the road will be settled, but because most of us will be dead.

And how sad that will be, because then we won't ever see each other again. I'll never see get to see Oberwetter or Biegler again, unless I can get my hands on a weekend pass and an asbestos suit. And then, of course, Greyson, Griggs, Hunt and I will be so busy anyway with harp class and the flying lessons. I guess nothing is forever.

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44 comments
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Dr8kangas
Dr8kangas

Great story. I agree. Improve the old freeway.

Dalguy
Dalguy

The Flood Road would be a massive Standing Wave for trucks.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Anyone remember the plan to dredge the Trinity and turn Dallas into a seaport?  That one staggered on for most of the 20th Century, but it died, eventually.  So will the Trinity floodway toll road.

In the meantime, if I'm not mistaken the cost estimates for the between-the-levees options do not include the costs of building up the levees so that they remain nominally capable of containing a 100 year flood.  That should allow the FHWA to delay the project for a few more years on the grounds that the proposal is incomplete.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

You will be shocked, but the grand Trinity barge plan is actually still on the books. I asked a rep of Halff that exact question Tuesday night.  And guess what -- Halff was around and a player in that brilliant idea as well.

RTGolden
RTGolden

And yet the money continues to flow to consultants, engineering firms, greasy palms, and all the other assorted pockets in Dallas that need lining.  As a relative newcomer to Dallas, all the history I find in these UP stories about political boondogles and ecological/educational travesties is fascinating.  Dallas politics makes Louisiana seem almost pristine by comparison.  In a way, Dallas is world class already.  I grew up reading about the political shenanigans in such world class cities as Chicago and New York.  Seems Dallas has been keeping pace with them the whole time.

billmarvel
billmarvel

You could run the world with lawyers and consultants, RT. Everybody else is irrelevant.

billmarvel
billmarvel

Oh. And motivational speakers. You'd need them.

Mo
Mo

RTGolden -

For a relative newcomer, you just put Dallas' political history in a nutshell!!!! 

Congrats!!! But know this, "CHANGE IS COMING TO AMERICA." And its starting with Dallas. 

Stay tuned!!! 

Cujo
Cujo

So they're scrapping the solar-powered water taxis in favor as LPG powered taxis with the leftover bounty from the fracking?

The sad thing is that so much money has been spent and wasted already on this. I don't see that stopping so whomever has their snouts on the trough already are going to keep feeding whether it gets built or not.

GinoRomano
GinoRomano

jonathan lee riches sues jessica lynn lopez and keith judd 3 million dollars. CNN BREAKING NEWS. JONATHAN LEE RICHES IS IN THE GUINESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS, google riches

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

We'll have flying cars eventually, Jim.

And Dallas will find a way to fuck that up too.

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

I just pictured the high-5 or the mixmaster with flying cars...

Consider my mind blown

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I'm still in awe of the genius of fracking where you're planning to build a tollroad.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

I'm imagining trying to drive on the tollroad through what eventually becomes a gassy swamp, what with fissures and sinkholes and flooding and stuff. Too bad they'll be using tolltags, because movies made from the horror stories tollbooth crew would surely be able to tell could net enough to actually make the road pay for itself.

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

Was money allocated in the cost of the toll road for cleaning the roadway once flooding recedes and all of the plastic bottles, bags and other assorted trash wash up on the roadway?  I hope this road never gets built.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Actually, eys, it's in the March supplemental.  In very cheerful language.  If I remember correctly (my copies laying in the boot of my car) it's $4 Million for each occurrence.

bbetzen
bbetzen

Jim,There was something new.  I do not recall ever speaking at a public hearing about "P"ing on the "Vote No, Save the Trinity" signs back in 2007 so that they were clarified to read "Vote No, Pave the Trinity."  If we had placed P's over the S's on 500 strategically placed signs, instead of less than 50, we probably would have won the election and saved tax payers millions, if not billions, of dollars.

That was definitely a confusing election in 2007: vote "NO" if you want the toll road and vote "YES" if you want to kill it.  On the day of the 2007 election I was pushing "Yes" votes outside McNair Elementary where I vote. I quickly realized that the vote "NO" volunteer across the street  from me was saying the same things I was saying.  I quietly went over and told them that the statements against the toll road were my lines.  They argued that you vote "NO" to stop the toll road. I showed them the wording on the ballot.  They were furious and immediately left. They would not stay and help push "Yes" due to frustration.   Apparently, based on what was said by other speakers last night, my experience of confusion among voters was common across Dallas.

In spite of the confusion, 47% of Dallas voted "Yes" in 2007 to kill the toll raod.  A new election now would be a landslide against the toll road based multiple indications including last nights testimony and the feedback Mayor Rawlings ignored from his facebook page with only 2 out of about 222 wanting to build a floodway toll road.

With other elections in front of us we need to have all the candidates now running to stand up and take a position on the toll road.  Mayor Rawlings wisesly did not do that before his election.  We now have time before voting in this months elections to get other candidates to stand up and be counted.  If they refuse to stand up and say anything, then be very cautious.

cbs
cbs

sure, let's have yet another election.  Maybe this time your preferred result will win. Again, and I hate returning to facts, the park and road have been voted and approved twice by voters. I would hope you would be equally vociferous about disenfranchisement of the voters should we continue to vote until your preferred side wins. What an odd precedent that would set.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

If Lindenberger and the DMN hadn't purposefully suppressed the story of the true cost of the toll road until AFTER the 2007 election it might be easier to take you seriously.

cp
cp

It would easier to take him seriously if he wasn't such an obvious troll...

Tom L
Tom L

Sure it's been approved twice. By outright lying to the voters. In the first election by never mentioning the tollroad AT ALL. In the second election by telling a whole series of lies about how the Feds insisted on it (they didn't), how they've got the money for the project all lined up (they didn't), how the road doesn't affect the safety of the levees (it does), about how it's going to relieve traffic downtown (no study has ever been commissioned).

But hey, the voters spoke. What they thought they were voting for is totally irrelevant.

cbs
cbs

This is inaccurate. Again, the facts reflect that the road has been included in each proposal. The first vote, the recommendation was a parkway (45 mph rated). The second was a parkway (55 mph rated). Toll collection as a subsidy was always on the table and disclosed and discussed ad nauseum. I agree that the wording on the second election was not the best; however, I also agree that actually reading the language made the content clear. Maybe I am an optimist, but I tend to think the majority of voters do not leave their brains at the voting booth entrance.   I believe there is a significant portion of Dallas that supports this project (I also understand that most of that group is not in the Schutze readership club as I am) and wants desperately to see it materialize (park and road included). Looking forward to riding my bike and running from WRL to the Trinity Park. I can get close now (massive trail expansions in the past years), but generally can only trail run in the Trinity now.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I seem to recall too that the second election the wording was opposite in that a yes meant no toll road and a no meant yes for the toll road. How Orwellian can you get..

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

After the 2007 close call and the Cesar Chavez/Industrial Blvd psuedo-debacle I don't think our park cities betters are going to roll the dice on allowing another election.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Jim, the greetings cards industry's loss was clearly our gain.

Lindenberger
Lindenberger

Shucks, Jim. If I had seen you over there chatting with Robert I'd have said hello. 

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

 (to the hopefully real Lindenberger) One of the great side benefits of paying to follow Wilonsky over to the DMN was actually getting to read some of the non-sports writers. I think you are doing a great job covering this within the constraints you must have.

cp
cp

You mean like the "real Wick" that posts here frequently? Speaking of...

Lindenberger
Lindenberger

Jon -- the only constraints over here I am aware of are the old-fashioned ones, as in a  reporter's time and smarts -- that and of course the facts, which constrain some reporters more than others. 

JBO
JBO

Hey Lindenberger -

Are trying to learn what real journalism is? Keep reading Schutze! You still wont get there, but kudos for trying. Here is a hint, get out of bed with the sleaze bags at City Hall! That is step #1. 

Mo
Mo

SCHUTZE -

Please do not ever go over to the Dark Side!!! If you do, you wont be taking harp lessons or flying lessons, more like pitch fork and scaring classes!!! 

Paul
Paul

I think that the best way to possibly kill this project is by constantly referring to it as:

"The Trinity Floodway Tollroad"

During the high water event this past spring, it is likely that this proposed road would have been flooded.

There is a 1% chance (or probability, if you prefer) each year that this road will be flooded.

I would like to know how this cost of repair and rehabilitation after being inundated is addressed in the operation and maintenance of this road.

There is also a significant probability in my opinion that at least once in the lifetime of this project that this road will be inundated to the extent that the road will be rendered unusable after the floodwaters recede.

Other than that it is a wonderful idea.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Good points all.   Every year it floods up to the levee tops.

Paul
Paul

 Which means that the roadway will be inundated at least once per year.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I bet that will be entertaining to hear on the morning traffic report!   Also a constant reminder to those who supported this of what a stupid idea this was.   A real badge of honor (horror) to those politicans who supported this (Leppert and Rawlings among others).   And your right about the cost of repairs-unless it is built in such a manor that would rank it up with the great wonders of the world.    I mean you can build anything if you throw enough money at it (esp. tax payer monies).

Mountain Creek
Mountain Creek

Griggs will be teaching the harp classes.  He's smart enough.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I lasted only till 7:15 pm.  After being told that last night's Powerpoint would be an hour shorter than the 2009 Powerpoint, but still come in at a little over an hour, I thought what am I doing here yet again?  Turned in the latest version of my letter -- this one begging for the no-build option -- I walked out and headed home for a cocktail.

I too thought it was a reunion of riders of a very slow moving train.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Jim's right, as usual. Case in point: there's a water rights lawsuit in New Mexico that's been going on so long all the original lawyers have actually died. They just hired new ones and cheerily carried on.    

Montemalone
Montemalone

 a la Bleak House? There does seem to be a certain Dickensian quality to this whole thing.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Right? The New Mexico case (it's called Aamodt, if you want to look it up), was filed in 1966. I used to transcribe tapes in Santa Fe, and ended up transcribing some of the testimony around 2003. Everybody sounded fucking exhausted.

We have so much to look forward to!

Paul
Paul

 Who (or what) was Aamodt?  Is this a person or an acronym and why did the NMSE sue him (or it)?

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

That's it. They've hammered out what looks like a lasting settlement agreement. Finally.

Paul
Paul

 Is this what you are talking about?

http://www.ose.state.nm.us/PDF...

With the NTMWD in such terrible shape on water storage and supply, we are not that far away from our own water wars here.

JimS
JimS

Makes us look A.D.D.

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