Dallas City Council Pushes Trinity Lakes Plan, Says Toll Road Opponents Wasted Millions

Categories: City Hall

The Trinity River lakes were never going to be humongous. Seventy-five or 80 acres each, according to the Balanced Vision Plan developed for the Trinity River Corridor Project in 2003. But now the plans have been reduced to something so small -- a couple of 20-acre ponds reaching a depth of 10 feet -- it's fair to wonder if it's even worth building.

The City Council still thinks it is. It voted today to approve a $737,000 design contract, which will allow it to spend $44 million later on -- $36 million to build the Urban Lake, a 23-acre body of water near downtown and $8 million for the even smaller West Dallas Lake off Westmoreland Road.

As a side benefit, and as justification for using funds earmarked for the Trinity Parkway, dirt excavated from the Urban Lake will be used to form a bench for the controversial toll road.

Council members Sandy Greyson and Philip Kingston voted against funding the lake, taking the occasion to reiterate what a dumb idea it is to build a high-speed freeway along the Trinity and suggest that the city pulled a bait and switch, dazzling voters with visions of a recreational paradise in a cynical ploy to gin up support for the toll road.

See also: Dallas' Incredible Shrinking Lakes

Kingston suggested holding off on the lakes, if not permanently then at least until the city figures out how it's going to pay for the Trinity Parkway.

"This [toll road] project is so off track that I cannot believe that we should even entertain it before we go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do it," he said.

We all know by now how Kingston feels about the toll road. The question is whether this makes him a brave peddler of common sense or an enemy of democracy.

Here's Vonciel Hill's opinion:

"Regardless of how any of us may feel about any aspect of the Trinity, including the Parkway, the voters have spoken twice and it is not the right way to go to say, 'While the voters have spoken, I disagree with that and therefore we should not move forward with the aspect of the plan.'"

And here's Vonciel Hill dismissing Kingston as a naive attention whore:

"I did not come to council in my first 10 months, pontificate about what was or was not in the bond package or what was and was not good," she says. She spent countless hours poring over the original bond package and the 1999 master plan and the 2003 Balanced Vision Plan. So, "I have an understanding of what we are voting on today. We are voting on the lakes."

Tennell Atkins also name-checked democracy.

"[The toll road] was in the bond program?" he quizzed Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan. "And the voters said yes?"

"Not only once but twice," Jordan said.

Then there was Jerry Allen, who accused toll road opponents of costing the city gobs of money by obstinately refusing to get on board.

"Millions of millions and millions have been wasted going down these rabbit trails," he said, later revising the figure to "hundreds of millions." He told Jordan to bring the council a dollar figure on how much toll road opponents have squandered. "You know that figure's huge."

See also: Dallas Is Trying to Silence City Hall Gadflies in the Least Effective Way Possible

Not nearly as huge as the $2 billion it will cost to build the Trinity Parkway, which many view as actively harmful, but huge.

But while Kingston and Greyson's arguments were summarily ignored by a majority of their colleagues, they were treated to an unintentional display of irony when Atkins and Davis, all of 10 minutes removed from singing their paean to democracy, voted to limit open-mic speakers at council meetings.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Is a 23-acre hole big enough to bury Hill and her ego? Might be worth digging after all.


I watched the committee meeting where Vonciel Hill and Gayle Thomas of the Trinity Trust made "cooing" talk to each other about how great this was for Dallas. It was gross knowing that both were in on the scam from the beginning and that both knew that they were very well protected by their own peer group.

Having Scott Griggs ask detailed and revealing questions of the staff appeared to have the effect of a pesky employee busting into their office who broke up their love making on the desk.


The City Council still thinks it is. It voted today to approve a $737,000 design contract, which will allow it to spend $44 million later on -- $36 million to build the Urban Lake, a 23-acre body of water near downtown and $8 million for the even smaller West Dallas Lake off Westmoreland Road.

Next spring we can all go down to the Levee and see what 44 million dollars worth of lake projects will look like under 8 to 10 Feet of rushing water .


Dallas is so "fashionable", isn't it?  San Francisco has cable cars; Dallas wants one too.  New Orleans is famous for being "the crescent city"; Dallas wants one too.  Paris is the "fashion capital of the world"; Dallas wants one too.  I'm waiting for this one: North Korea has Kim Jung Un; Dallas wants one too.  Or how about:

Dallas has a long-standing, underground reputation as being the very dead center of the blues; Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Huddy Ledbetter, and many others all busked on street corners in Deep Ellum, and so when an organic neighborhood springs up out of the ruins of the old Deep Ellum, becomes "the Seattle of the Third Coast", famous for numerous groups and wonderful music, and what happens? 

Raise the rent, put independent "small businesses" (like the ones U.S. House Speaker, John Boehner, whines about like a broken record all the livelong day...), and CRUSH CULTURE. 

No wonder sophisticated corporations like Boeing choose to go elsewhere.  Who wants an all-dead-all-the-time city where the socialites and their parasites all worship them when they go away and try to burn them out like cockroaches when they are here. 

Yes, Dallas, Texas, is one twisted mess of a city.  Don't tell anyone.  Voices carry. 

As for the gash in the dirt called the mighty Trinity River: Honest to Jesus H. Christ, what in the devil is that all about?  The trickle trickles, and triangles simply do not roll very well or operate as wheels.  I thought the idea of building a nice promenade across the trickle-gas-gutter-trash-collector would have worked...

...but like a woman on her period, when the Trinity swells everything--trees, bushes, animals, birds, even homeless people, including the two alkies I once met who passed-out in a Ford down in the dale, only to wake-up neck-deep in brackish water--gets washed away. 

Perhaps a giant tampon will keep that Trinity in line when it has its springtime menses. 


Who votes for toll roads? I actually wouldn't be against toll roads if they weren't given eternity contracts.  Every toll road should be capped at 20 year max then turned over to the state.  Wasn't that the plan for Dallas North Tollway?

I think somebody should run on that platform alone.  ALL toll roads can only exist for 20 years.  How is it we can build a huge bridge that gets NO use and we can't build a road w/o giving the shaft to hard working citizens?


The mayor should hold Vonciel to the standards of conduct posted at every City Council meeting.  He should have her removed from the chambers as soon as she starts insulting other Council members or citizens.  She would have been gone very quickly at this morning's meeting.


My studio (well, not mine, but I was number one guy, technical director) worked on the original concept art for this water wonderland vision. It was in Photoshop, about thirty layers at least. Being the funsters we were, we had secret layers with hippos, unicorns, nekkid wimmin, and shit I've long forgotten. I bet if we actually presented the finished piece with our stoner R Crumb features, there would be sailboats plying the Trinity today.

Manned by big-ass wimmins of course.

I bet that art exists on some CD today.


Why not just make a lake... solve some of that drought problem Delkus keeps talking about.

holmantx topcommenter

The State Water Plan passed in 2012 proposes building 26 reservoirs and hundreds of miles of pipelines to move water to cities. "The primary message of the 2012 State Water Plan is a simple one: In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises."  Remember? 

Instead of a couple of stock tanks with obscene price tags, why not dam the Trinity on the state's dime?  We need water, don't we?

Well?  Don't we?  What's wrong with a MASSIVE reservoir on land we already own?  Google map Dallas County and flick on the aerial shot.  See that mui GIGANTE swatch of undeveloped land that stretches from Lake Lewisville 44 miles southeast?  That's floodplain, baby.  From 1 to 7 miles wide and it's already leveed.

We can have our lake and drink it too.  And this reservoir would be the size of TEXAS!

All it takes is a little vision and a couple a politicians.  It's not like we don't know how to do this.

We voted in a plan that created and constitutionally dedicates two new funds: the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). The legislature has also authorized a one-time, $2 billion investment from the Economic Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) to be deposited into the SWIFT for the support of water supply projects in the state water plan. These funds are designed to make the financing of water projects through bonds more affordable for local entities and ensure that consistent, ongoing state financial assistance is available so that our citizens will have adequate water supplies during drought.

So let’s swing for the fences on this.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

THIS is why we can never have anything NICE!

~ V. Hill ~

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

$44MM to built a couple of stock ponds?  Get real!

I would rather that we spend that kind of money on our existing parks.

Better yet, use that kind of money to buy some of the land around the old river channel in the industrial district and convert that to a park!


Other cities have shambling, unstoppable, brain-dead zombies that make fun sequels. Dallas has the shambling, unstoppable, brain-dead toll road plan that's not fun now, and will be even less fun later.


"You can't take away the toll road because the people voted for it" they said, while drastically bastardizing the lakes plan that people voted for.


[Here's Vonciel Hill's opinion:

"Regardless of how any of us may feel about any aspect of the Trinity, including the Parkway, the voters have spoken twice and it is not the right way to go to say, 'While the voters have spoken, I disagree with that and therefore we should not move forward with the aspect of the plan.'"]

The most recent vote was in 2007, and the results were:

For the tollroad:  42,300 (53%)

Against the tollroad:  37,670 (47%)

The campaign was characterized by the distribution by pro-tollroad factions of false information and omission of material information.  In addition, the pro-tollroad forces engaged in a deceptive campaign designed to intentionally confuse voters, adopting  an environmental style, blue/green style of signs, etc. accompanied by the slogan "Save the Trinity!"  Many voters who voted against the proposition thought they were voting against the toll road.  Special political action groups with heavy backing from toll road contractors funded most of the campaign.

Even with all of that, Angela Hunt's proposal came within 5,000 votes of passing.  The overwhelming voter support that Judge Hill claims for the toll road simply doesn't exist.


File this episode under "Why Dallas Can't Afford to Repair its Deteriorating Street."

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@gordonhilgers At least i assume you're never lonely, what with all those voices sounding off in your head!


Here's a suggestion for uber-Dallas' high muckety-mucks:  How about a huge, giant bidet in the very center of downtown Dallas?  That way, Dallas could "keep it clean" and all the socialites, parasites, grease millionaires and lackey politicians will have something to crow about: "Nobody else has a Giant Bidet in Downtown Anywhere Else On Earth!" 

Whoa!  Walk that one on back there, hoss! 

Reason for the rant?  Dallas is a giant insect waiting to happen, and conservatism, Texas style, is nothing but a giant waffle iron.  If I am not mistaken, the famed science fiction movies under the "Alien" trademark are actually about Dallas In Space.  Cockroach for the ages. 

All real estate, nothing to believe in but steak houses and cocktails on the pinnacles of giant mirrors. 

It would also be nice to use "Avon calling" as the city motto.  All make-up, no real beauty anywhere. 


@Dallas_dude  Yes, I remember when the Toll Road was going become a free-use road, once it was paid for. Ah, well....

Montemalone topcommenter

@Oxtail The lakes have to be filled with tap water because river water is too polluted for recreation.


@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Where is that $44M coming from since we know that have frittered away all of the money from the 1997 boondoggle.

And I call Kings X on the fact that we voted for the toll road -- We don't know what we voted for and the City affirmed that by going to Court and saying we are going to spend that money any way we please.  Water taxis, lakes, fields amphitheaters -- I think we were promised all that -- and as it turns -- nothing.

Though as one of those leading the opposition in 97 -- I kept saying it was a toll road -- and it turns out I was right.  



Come on Paul, get with that whole World-Class thing everyone but you is supporting. I'm absolutely certain hundred of thousands of Dallas' outdoor lovers will flock to recreate around a stagnant 10 acre stock tank dug into the river bottom, where they can slap mosquitoes, search for body parts, collect plastic grocery bags (get the whole set!!!) and generally have about as much fun as they are now having with the Trinity White Water Rapids feature. 

Everything about the Trinity Plan is about the Trinity River Tollway. Everything else is mere subterfuge.


@WylieH I have found that Vonciel strictly follows protocol, and only works in black and white facts and figures....especially when it plays her way. She doesn't like to acknowledge that even though the voters did vote YES based on pretty pictures, millions of dollars are missing from the coffers because when the staff spilled the beans two weeks ago, it was only in a committee meeting responding to Griggs questions. To knock her down a few pegs there had to be the following scenario:

A. Griggs is not there today.

B. That means,Staff won't show up to confirm what they told him

C. No one else has the strength or balls to go up against her for fear of 

   hearing about "slavery" and "racism"

What Greyson did today was VERY brave for her especially with her being on the committee overseeing this debacle. But she did not have any backup.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter


"...  Many voters who voted against the proposition thought they were voting against the toll road. ..."

That was precisely the way the troglodytes in the City Attorney's office were hoping for when they insisted on the wording of the ballot.  The convoluted the wording so that you had to approve a negative, when all that was really required was a 'yes' vote to rescind the previous ballot, not a 'no' vote to not approve upholding the original ballot.


As "dessert", I offer up this suggestion: A huge ham sandwich monument to serve as a "bridge" over the Trinity trash bag catcher.  The lackeys could slather the "High Priests of the Holey Ham Sandwich" with marzipan and nougat, as the worshippers proceed out of the First Baptist Church and press heads to parking-lot and pray to the "Ham Sandwich of Babylon". 

An aperitif?  A hot tub bubbling with orange juice and lemonade: A good time was had by all. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Lorlee @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

Shoot honey, Ahm jess a dirt poor stock pond builder.  Let me know when you want these things dug.  Although, they is jess gonna fill right back up after the first or second Spring rain.

My bulldozer and belly scraper are on another job right now over by Pilot Point, but we should be done by the middle of next week.

Ah relly dont care where the money comes from deary, jess so longs as the check will clear.  Though if you gives me some in cash, I'll work a deal with ya.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter


I may have to bid on building these stock ponds.  Even with all the gummint paperwork and that pesky 'equity' thing for the 'specialized' contractors and consultants, I figure I can probably net out $42.5MM.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@oakclifftownie Its ok, If had commented after I had just read gordonhilgers, Id have an old person brain fart too!


@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @LorleeMaybe you misunderstand -- I have been opposed to this thing from day 1 and I don't want anything dug.  And I am more than disgusted that $216M has been frittered away with nothing to show for it.  ($244M originally and they think they have $28M left)

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul@WylieH 

Do you want ketchup?


No - I would like for you to not put ketchup on that burger.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault