The Bogus 'Detour' Argument for the Trinity Toll Road is Finally Dead

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Wait. Click the pause button. Freeze this. There's a huge point here that some people do not want us to notice. In the last 24 hours, the entire debate about the Trinity River toll road has completely shifted ground.

I was just now on the phone about it with City Council member Scott Griggs. He pointed out that if you read The Dallas Morning News this morning, you are not going to see any mention of the real news.

Up until yesterday, the News has always reported in news columns and insisted on its editorial page that there is no way to fix the old freeways downtown unless we build a new toll road out in the flood zone along the Trinity River first as a construction detour. The News' editorial page has insisted for years that the toll road is the horse and Project Pegasus, the state's plan to improve the Stemmons Freeway corridor, is the carriage to bring us downtown congestion relief.

Over the last few weeks, Griggs and council members Angela Hunt and Sandy Greyson have been questioning state highway officials about that thesis. What they have learned is that it's just flat not true. Highway planners have told them if they need temporary detours, they'll do what they do on every other construction project in Texas and the world and build temporary detours.

pegasus statue.jpg
Pegasus, a creature of myth, much like the arguments in favor of the Trinity toll road: not real, won't fly and full of horse shit.
Think about it. Who builds an entire new multibillion-dollar freeway as a detour? Did they do that when they rebuilt the entire length of Central Expressway? Did they do that when they rebuilt the "high five" intersection of Central and LBJ?

Of course not. They built detours. People rerouted themselves. The projects went on for years. Most people didn't even notice.

The toll-road-as-detour argument was always idiotic, but it stuck around stubbornly until about 24 hours ago, when Greyson, Griggs and Hunt finally got it shot down.

Now Michael Morris, who is the toll road lobbyist and public political operative at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, seems to have given up on the detour argument entirely. He's quoted instead in the News today and, more saliently in an online post yesterday, arguing that Project Pegasus itself is a piece of crap not worth doing.

That's a very radical argument, especially since the state highway department is already halfway pregnant with Pegasus: the first half of the project, called "The Horseshoe," is already under way.

News transportation writer Michael Lindenberger reports online that Morris told him, "Pegasus Project, once touted as the top priority for fixing downtown traffic, no longer makes any sense to build at all -- even if the toll road is unable to be built for other reasons. It's too expensive and produces too few traffic benefits."

Wow. That's wild. But remember our freeze-frame. What are we about to miss in this picture? We're about to miss -- because Lindenberger doesn't show it -- that Morris has given up on the billion-dollar detour argument.

Griggs said to me this morning that the entire debate on the toll road has shifted in the last 24 hours: "It's a paradigm shift that's been almost invisible and practically unnoticed. One day we go from, 'You have to have the toll road to build Pegasus, because there's no other way,' to now a head-to-head comparison between the toll road and Pegasus."

In that shift, Griggs said, "You are admitting that there is a way to do Pegasus without the toll road. It's a paradigm shift. It's amazing how fast it has happened, how quickly."

He's right. And the shift puts Morris in an absolutely zany position where he has to argue that Pegasus, vaunted for decades as the single most important transportation project in downtown, is a piece of junk.

If that's true, somebody needs to fire a whole bunch of traffic engineers, not to mention the political appointees on the state highway commission who have been vowing just the opposite for decades. It's especially crazy, given that Pegasus is under construction already. Should we abandon it, if it's such a waste of money?

This is flailing. Stripped of the detour argument, Morris is trying to save his horse by setting the carriage on fire.

Morris works for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a "metropolitan planning organization" mandated by federal law. MPO's have been around since the 1960s. They are the federal government's attempt to bring rational comprehensive planning to the spending of federal highway dollars. Morris is supposed to be a kind of technocratic numbers guy.

But that's not how he really rolls. Instead Morris has emerged over the years as a political hustler, a paid shill for the old Dallas elite, who want to build a toll road out in the flood zone along the river because they stupidly think it will enable them to redevelop their worn-out low-rent riverside warehouse district as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

This guy will say anything, and now he's really desperate to salvage his deal. He's a "rational planner" whose statements are beginning to sound like they should be accompanied by a chorus of wooden flutes and bongo drums.

Today's developments are the proof. In the weeks ahead, numbers will emerge proving that Pegasus is far and away the most cost effective way to reduce traffic congestion downtown.

At that point I expect a news conference in which Morris will appear standing on a pyramid wearing robes made of the flayed skin of a female virgin to predict that failure to build the toll road will trigger the end of the world as predicted by ancient Mayans. We must all hope that's not true.


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76 comments
Michael Lowe
Michael Lowe

Great article Jim!! Keep up the great work. The truth is coming out on the proposed Trinity Toll Road!!!!

joseph l
joseph l

Yes, way past time to move on past this obsession.

The premise that the mayor, highly educated self-made squillionaire is just not as bright as Jim Schutze and Angela Hunt and that's why he wants a toll road, or is he just part of an evil conspiracy so vast it includes people all the way from the far left to the far right?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Jim, I appreciate the argument, and you make a great point, but I'm sick of hearing rumors of the death of this project.  Much like Mark Twain, I suspect the rumors are premature.

Je
Je

If Dallas is busting at the seams such that we need to build this road to accommodate growth, why is downtown full of empty lots?

Montemalone
Montemalone

I thought you people were smarter.

Obviously the plan is to keep feeding the consultants, and to make sure all the government cronies keep their well paid positions until the flying car is perfected and we don't need no stinkin roads no more.

That's why they used the name of a winged horse.

Da Truth
Da Truth

Listen to Mayor Mike because he is tall and loud. He says he has numbers and numbers say must build road that floods.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

The people who run this city are not interested in any park down by the river. That does nothing to promote the cheap land that will bring the corporations and allow the metropolitan area to keep providing those companies with low taxes; keeping them here, and growing the regions coffers. Dallas is already in bed with the rest of its neighbors(Ft.Worth, Arlington, Irving, Plano, etc). We all remember what the SuperBowl was referred to as, right? It was the North Texas SuperBowl, not the Dallas one. The deals already been made...this is just pandering politics(kinda like how we're not fighting in Iraq, anymore, but we still kinda are...closing down Gitmo, while keeping it open). It appeases the natives(who are the ones who really want the park), while delivering to the regional players(the N.Texas developers, land owners, construction companies, yadda yadda) who are gonna get what they need to grow $$$. Oh well. It's cute reading all the indignation concerning it, though.

Doug
Doug

"Pegasus Project, once touted as the top priority for fixing downtown traffic, no longer makes any sense to build at all -- even if the toll road is unable to be built for other reasons. It's too expensive and produces too few traffic benefits."  Has this idiot NEVER driven through this area?  Is there a bigger cluster-f anywhere in the U.S. than the intersection of I-30 and I35 in Dallas?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

So, by DMN logic, there should've been a nice highway built across the runways of DFW so people could bypass the 121/114/635 interchange mess?

Preston17
Preston17

Jim, maybe someday could you stop your monthly incessant NCTCOG/Michael Morris bashing and give us your thoughts on how you would deal with congestion, traffic, outdated infrastructure and ridiculous future growth we're going to see?  You're starting to sound like all the campaign ads on tv.    

detour
detour

Aren't detours generally supposed to head traffic in the same direction as the original route?  For example, if you're traveling on I75, a 'detour' might take you to the Dallas North Tollway.

We're being sold a road in a riverbed that runs perpendicular to the existing road.  How can this possibly be a 'detour'?  Can someone show me where this logic makes sense?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Absolutely none of this is surprising.  It's been obvious for years that both Bill Hale (TxDOT) and Michael Morris (NCTCOG) will say and do [i]anything[/i] to further their own self interests-- I dare anyone to construct a coherent "theme" to their positions over the years.

Make no mistake, there is a pile of money associated with this Trinity Toll Road.  I suspect the end-game for both Hale and Morris is to secure a "tenured" position at Halff Associates or another of the primary beneficiaries of this crazy deal-- I'm guessing Mary Suhm has her "eyes on the prize" as well.  To enhance their chances of achieving such an outcome, they will say and do absolutely anything.

Over at the DMN, despite some promising changes of late, it appears that someone still has his boot on Michael Lindenberger's throat.  I used to think that Lindenberger was just a bad/lazy reporter.  Over time, I've realized that he's actually quite smart, but... like a lot of people, he has to put bread on the table, and is forced to walk an uncomfortable "tightrope" balancing Decherd's demands that he serve as a P.R. hack with his desire, to... you know, actually be a good reporter.

Look at Lindenberger's blog post early this morning:   http://transportationblog.dall... If you read it closely, you can practically see him being beaten down into laying a trap for Griggs, Hunt and Grayson.  After his post's promising start, it goes on this "journey" in which he lays out this preposterous case that if TxDOT comes back to Rawlings confirming the Trinity Toll Road is all good, then it is somehow axiomatic that the dissenting three council members are box office poison from here on out.

In fact, as has been evident for years, TxDOT is a highly politicized entity whose views simply can't be trusted.  Their opinions shift around based on the prevailing political winds.  Look at Lindenberger's most recent post:  http://cityhallblog.dallasnews...  You can practically sense him trying to break free.

If things start getting nasty this time around, it will be interesting to see who Decherd can get to whore his or her reputation out.  I get the sense that Lindenberger isn't going to allow his reputation to get slammed once again.  What will the DMN do... put Steve Blow on the transportation beat?

It seems patently obvious that what is going on here is more of the same old stuff, but with Rawlings learning from Leppert's mistakes.  Leppert's approach in shilling for the toll road was to combine lies with demonization of the opposing point of view as basically being an enemy of the state.  Rawlings, in contrast, is going through the motions of pretending to actually represent the interests of his constituents.  The outcome, however, is predetermined:  TxDOT will cook the books to make the toll road appear to be the preferred outcome.  Rawling can then use the fabricated "evidence" to strengthen his position.

Remember, the Federal government has already passed on financing this thing, multiple times, because they've already determined it doesn't meet the standard criteria for funding highway projects.

Sigh.... sometimes living in Dallas is so predictable and depressing.

JimS
JimS

How about he still wants to be able to get into a foursome at the Dallas Cuntry Club when this is all over? 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Because it takes so long to get into downtown?

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Mayor Mike is an idiot, and so is fat ass Mary.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 no scruffy, you old redneck; we need a tunnel. 

Tom L
Tom L

 Good God, man, that's brilliant! Why has no one thought of this before!?

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

First, take the $1.42 billion and rebuild 35 and 30 through downtown, just as we did Central, and are now doing on 635.  Second, every study shows that more roads don't fix congestion or traffic.  Dallas could do alot by just updating signals and fixing its streets. Besides,fixing the "ridiculous future growth" predicted region wide is not our sole problem or responsibility.  And it damn sure shouldn't come at our expense.

JimS
JimS

Pretson, I do apologize. I guess I was being too vague, The answer to your question is Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus Project Pegasus

Bob
Bob

Look, Preston. Your "quit complaining and give me solutions" is a good distraction. Mary Suhm/Carol Reedl/Mayor Mike and especially Rodger Jones at DMN have been playing this angle frequently in recent weeks. But this is kind of like asking an alcoholic to explain how they need to change their life, when they really need to quit drinking first.

The City needs to start being more transparent about their growth and development plans, and they need to stop selling us Product A (e.g. Trinity Park) when really they want to sell us Product B (e.g. Toll Road, construction contracts and higher property values.)

wilme2
wilme2

ridiculous future growth? Do explain in detail...

ThatGuy
ThatGuy

Dallas is not going to see ridiculous growth.  The suburbs are.  Let them stick their road somewhere else.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

First, it is not logic.

Second, it makes no sense at all.

Third, it is the Dallas Citizens Council and anything that makes a bundle of money for them is the "right" thing to do.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

If you go back through the DMN archives, you will find that someone at TxDOT confirmed to Angela Hunt that rebuilding the mixmaster didn't require building a toll road connecting Irving to the freeways in South Dallas.  The guy who said that, however, was quietly "disappeared" by TxDOT, never to be heard from again.

JimS
JimS

Excellent core point here: all federal highway dollars have to be spent under the official mantra of "congestion litigation." To get federal mney, you have to show traffic projections proving that your new road will reduce congestion on existing roads, not suck new traffic into an already congested area. The backers of this road tried to hit that target and failed, becase this road doesn't work as congestion relief. That;s why they have to try it as a toll road. Unfortunatley, it also does not meet projections to support bonds as a toll road. This is where Morris gets really separated from intellectual honesty.  He's arguing now that the toll road is good because you can collect tolls. But it won't generate enough tolls to pay for itself. You;re not ahead just because you cllect some tolls. You're only ahead if you collect enough tolls to pay for the road. He knows that. It's all just voodoo for him from here on out. The good thing is this: these numbers al exist. They have already run all ofthese tests. The bad thing is this: the highway pepole are under huge pressuree never to let the real numbers out. 

JimS
JimS

A wise man in the business, speaking of newspaper careers, once said, "It never ends well." 

Bob
Bob

 Wylie - Spot on analysis of Lindenberger.I also used to think he was a patsy, but I have developed a lot of respect for him.... and especially empathy.

JimS
JimS

inadvertant typo: Dallas Country Club.

detour
detour

Marilla St. is Dallas City Hall (for those of you not from around here).

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

 Nono, the tunnel will detract from above-ground business.

Preston17
Preston17

You're right.  More lanes don't do squat to alleviate traffic. I didn't say fix the growth, but the transportation system better damn sure be able to handle all of it.  And guess what?  1.42 billion didn't just come from the taxpayers of Dallas County. 

Preston17
Preston17

I meant regionwide...which I know is a sin to bring up here.

Hey, I'm against the TTR too.  I'd just like to hear some ideas for a change. 

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

Dallas is already in bed with what the regions wants. The SuperBowl/DFW airport/Parkland/water supply shows us how much actual power Dallas has over its neighboring counties/cities...not much. Dallas knows what it's got, and it'll take what it can get.

lorlee
lorlee

His name was Tim something.  He was the one who led several of the meetings concerning the 20 lanes they are planning for I-30 East toward Mesquite. 

 As my favorite math teacher used to say, anyone can get the answer, it's how you frame the question.  And TXDot simply couldn't understand that.  If you ask the question: "How do we accommodate more cars," -- the only answer you get is to build more lanes.  If you ask:  "How do you move more people," -- you open up many more possibilities. 

They are in the business of building roads and keeping consultants in business, not doing what is best of the City. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I believe you are referring to Tim Nesbitt.

scottindallas
scottindallas

you two give the strict libertarians a lot to support their arguments.  I am a progessive libertarian.  I believe gov't needs to do what it needs to do, transparently and jealously.  It should stay out of the free market (seriously, do we need a health dept inspecting restaurants?  Without one, we as customers have the clout to go look at the kitchen ourselves if we insisted.  Though we would be given the same transparency in Midlothian.  I want a return of regulated monopolies in the utilities, if not total socialism.  But, do we really need building permits?  I bet you could hire an inspector to check out any work for the same price; I'm not questioning zoning per se--though I'd probably like to see more liberalization there too. 

We need to make some hard choices, locally and federally.  Perhaps the Feds shouldn't have a dept of Education.  Do we need the Ag dept to do everything they do?  Should the Federal gov't be building subsidized housing, wouldn't rent card be a better way to help those with housing?  It seems best for the gov't to atomize it's subsidies, leaving the market influence in the hands of individuals.  Perhaps the school voucher issue is a valid one.  Is education a utility?  probably.  Is it appropriate to unify the distribution?   Again, I appreciate that gov't must move deliberately; I think that all should be able to buy into either Medicaid or Medicare for their actuarial cost plus 10-15%, which would be returned to those programs.  This exemplifies how I'd introduce gov't into a market that it should dominate (insurance should ultimately sell only supplemental policies) 

But, if we can't get some sense back into gov't; it's a compelling case to tear the whole artifice down.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

Rawlings is gonna give TXDoT 30 days to play with the numbers and come up with something that'll get the backhoes a'hoeing. I have no faith in Dallas not building this.

JimS
JimS

Sorry for dysfingera

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

No, Jim, you had it right the first time!

Tom L
Tom L

 It's easy to remember if you use the mnemonic, "Gorilla on Marilla" to represent city hall.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

I replied to Tom L who challenged anybody to give him one reason why we could NOT build highways across airport runways. I gave him more than one reason.

JC
JC

Wes, you wrote all that and failed to see you were replying to a joke.  

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Obviously, you are not a pilot and have no clue about potential aviation issues.

Aircraft do not always land just beyond the threshhold of the runway. Sometimes, they land further down a runway to minimize traffic pattern congestion on the active runways and taxiways. Every now and then a plane needs to pull up sharply on take-off or land further down the runway to avoid hitting another plane that may be somewhere other than where it is supposed to be.

Occcasionally, strong atmospheric updrafts or downdrafts affect a take-off or landing. It was a microburst that sent a Delta L-1011 into a cow pasture short of SH 121 that then resulted in its crash into water tanks near the FedEx and UPS terminals a few years ago.

Most importantly, DFW was built as a military auxillary airport capable of landing heavy bombers (fully-loaded B-52's) in the event of an emergency situation, which is why the runways are more than 11 feet thick.

Jumbo heavies do not immediately respond to control commands, especially in take-off and landing modes. And, you DAMNED sure are not going to put any support columns anywhere near runways or taxiways because that would be just flat out stupid! So, do you propose building a VERY long suspension bridge that has NO support columns and have it sticking high enough up in the air to never interfere with safe aircraft operation? Now, you are talking MANY billions of dollars, and it is probably not even possible from an engineering perspective.

The most assinine suggestion I have EVER heard is building bridges over runways.

Montemalone
Montemalone

 Bridges that raise like on a river, when the boats sail by. Imagine how cool that would be!

Tom L
Tom L

Precisely! Plus, tunnels are horribly expensive.

I dare anyone to give me just one reason why building bridges for this proposed highway over airport runways is a bad idea.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

You don't always need "ideas" to justify not going through with a colossal fuck up. That's like asking where should retirees haven invested their savings if not with Bernie Madoff? In retrospect, not investing with Bernie Madoff would have been enough to qualify as a huge win.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I'm not sure that's true.   As I understand it, they pay more than we do--there could be some variation in wholesale vs. retail costs.  

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

If they raised the price for other cities to the price we're already paying, there'd probably be less water wasted, and maybe we wouldn't need ongoing water restrictions placed on us (which they also don't have to follow).

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

It's not that Dallas doesn't have their own water, sir. It's that Dallas supplies some of its water to the surrounding 'burbs; where suburbanites are paying less than those that are in the city where the supply is coming from. Sweet!

scottindallas
scottindallas

you have little imagination.  I said there shouldn't be gov't housing; but, there are better ways to subsidize rent, withouth the Federal gov't being a landlord.  I both here and earlier supported rent cards. 

On inspecting restaurants versus electricity, restaurants are in the free market, and in the free market, alternatives and competition empowers the customers.  However, that formulation doesn't work in utilities/monopolies.

Another example is the FDA.  We have food stamps, which I support, but I don't support WIC, which helps create those ag giants.  Food should be a free market--alternatives, competition and various supply chains distinguish food from monopolies/utilities.  But, many of our AG policies encourage the monoliths, Monsanto, ConAgra, ADM and a few others.

Schools are funded on the state and local level.  what is the point of the Federal gov't meddling in these markets?  Perhaps the DOE should publish a magazine.   Again, I support regulation or completely socializing utilities, but not all markets are limited.  I'm all for gov't wholly socializing utilities, but, it should act carefully in the free market. 

You've failed to discern where it's appropriate for gov't to enter the markets and where it should avoid.  If you're just gonna act, intervene on a willy-nilly basis, then you have no plan.  There danger with ignoring this is that this is how much of the gov't's wealth is skimmed off--through socializing the costs, and privatizing the gains.   Mixing gov't in markets is problematic, we should be prudent and carefully look for these perverse incentives.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

scottindallas: It should stay out of the free market (seriously, do we need a health dept inspecting restaurants?  Without one, we as customers have the clout to go look at the kitchen ourselves if we insisted.

Wes: Yes, we DO need a health department. I don't even know who you are and I damned sure don't trust you in inspect the food I am going to eat and determine that it is safe for human consumption.

scottindallas: But, do we really need building permits?  I bet you could hire an inspector to check out any work for the same price; I'm not questioning zoning per se--though I'd probably like to see more liberalization there too.

Wes: Yes, we DO need building permits and we DO need qualified inspectors in enforce building codes for the safety of all  neighbors. Anybody could hire an "inspector" to give them a clean bill of health on code compliance if there was no oversight.

scottindallas: Perhaps the Feds shouldn't have a dept of Education.  Do we need the Ag dept to do everything they do?  Should the Federal gov't be building subsidized housing, wouldn't rent card be a better way to help those with housing?  It seems best for the gov't to atomize it's subsidies, leaving the market influence in the hands of individuals.  Perhaps the school voucher issue is a valid one.  Is education a utility?  probably.  Is it appropriate to unify the distribution?

Wes: Without a Department of Education even fewer citizens would get any education at all, and our country would quickly devolve into more of a Third World country than we already are.

Without an Agriculture Department we would have uncontrolled corporate control of our food supply with the eye on the bottom line rather than food safety and quality, and with much higher prices.

Without government subsidized housing we would have 20-30% of Americans living in carboard boxes on the streets just so some flunkies who inherited a lot of money could say that it is what they deserve for not being wealthy enough to provide their own housing.

The problem we have with the system is not the system, but rather with the braindead people running the system, and those who willfully advocate trashing the system for some ideal they envision as workable when it is not. That is Neanderthal thinking, and it is typical of libertarians, which is why they are relegated to the back of the political bus.

scottindallas
scottindallas

ever heard of false dichotomies?  Good god.  We DO need to reduce some of the battles the gov't fights.  I am asking for that conversation to happen.  I'm the one who's written extensively about  not just free markets, but the professional and utility markets as well.  Then you have professional utilities.  I wrote that the Fed gov't should essentially take over major healthcare, (retail) commercial banking. 

But, from your comments I have to assume that you'd keep every law on the books.  I'm against the death penalty, drug prohibition, prohibition of prostitution, international meddling and wars of aggression.  I was trying to have an advanced conversation, you run back to partisan sniping.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Got any more of whatever you are smoking? Those beliefs are exactly why Ron Paul will NEVER be elected as POTUS. While you are at it, why have an FAA to inspect aircraft and make sure airlines operate safely? Why have the Corps of Engineers to build and maintain dams, spillways and levees? In fact, why have any government at all? That's the typical Neanderthan Libertarian approach to everything.

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