Dallas Needs Bold Solutions For Its $10 Billion Infrastructure Problem, Like Getting Rid of Alleys

Categories: City Hall

Thumbnail image for PotholeAlanStantonFlickr.jpg
Alan Stanton
Dallas City Council members had no trouble finding words to describe their feelings when confronted yesterday with a $9.6 billion to-do list of infrastructure needs that runs the gamut from streets to cultural facilities to flood management. "Unbelievable" was one. "Daunting" was another. Throw in "depressing" and "scandalous," and you've got a pretty good handle on the tone of the discussion.

Even assistant city manager Jill Jordan, who had the unenviable task of delivering the bad news, got in on the despair. "I think I'd have to be immortal to finish [everything on this list]," she said.

Much more difficult is figuring out how to fill in the hole left by decades of failure on the part of City Hall to properly maintain infrastructure.

Some of the bill will be paid through future bond programs, the next of which is tentatively scheduled for 2017. The rest will have to be cobbled together through some combination of cost savings and revenue generation.

See also: Dallas Streets Keep Getting Worse and Worse

Jordan floated a handful of hypothetical options, big and small. Maybe it'd be smarter for the city to lease, rather than own, its buildings. The city could look at privatizing some operations, like radio communications. It could propose a 1-cent property tax increase and promise voters that the revenues would all be used to fix streets.

And alleyways -- they're in worse shape than streets (a whopping 43-percent "satisfactory" and dropping fast). Does Dallas really want to maintain them? Currently, the city requires developers to build alleys in all new subdivisions. It might be wise to do away with that provision, maybe cede some existing ones to homeowners and allow them to move their fences a few feet back.

"There are some policy questions that we need to discuss about alleys," Jordan said. And parks. And libraries. And courts. And everything else the city touches. Those will be addressed in greater detail in eight briefings scheduled for the coming months.

The good news is the council had, or pretended to have, a collective come-to-Jesus moment.

In the words of Jennifer Staubach Gates, "It's tempting, when we see big projects that are flashy and look good for our city, but it gives me angst sometimes when we go after that at the expense of our basic city services."

Pretty soon, the city's going to have to start making some hard choices. In the meantime, Vonciel Hill floated a stop-gap proposal: suck harder at the federal government's teat.

"Next week we will be in D.C.," she said. "We will have what we call 'Lobby Day.'"

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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68 comments
paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

Dallas "Not quite world class, but have you seen Garland! Could be awhole lot worse"

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

Throw another billion DART's way, that will fix it.

mcdallas
mcdallas

"In the meantime, Vonciel Hill floated a stop-gap proposal: suck harder at the federal government's teat."


I don't know if it's possible to "suck harder" than we already do.

NewsDog
NewsDog

World Class... World Class...World Class. Say it with me people, World Class.

Streets, alleys, sewers, code enforcement, libraries, schools don't make a city World Class.  Bright shiny bauble buildings, fake suspension bridges, publicly funded privately run sports venues, land grabs, elected officials going to prison for corruption, these are the things that make a city World Class.

Dallas is World Class                

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

It would be nice to see what percentage of the 57% Unsatisfactory alleys are south of I-30.  I know that in Bruton Terrace and Piedmont it's more like 95%.

James080
James080

The alleys are falling apart because the city uses overweight trash trucks to collect the rubbish. The solution is to add a monthly street and alley replacement fee (or sell revenue bonds dedicated to alley repair based on collecting the fee) to the cost of solid waste removal. Then what residents pay for refuse pick-up would reflect the true cost of the service.


Dallas residents could mitigate the damage trash collection trucks do to their alleys and streets by recycling and re-purposing more of their refuse, so that collection  can be cut to once every two weeks, which work just fine for my family.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

I seriously doubt this is 10 billion in infrastructure problems. A significant amount are probably wish list items. I am not against those items as they can often pay for themselves in other ways. Nonetheless the remaining actual problems are probably daunting anyway.

casiepierce
casiepierce

WHY are they scratching their collective heads and wondering about this at all? Decades of approving how many tax increment financing districts in Dallas is what the problem is. They talk and talk about the need for economic development but when they let places like Victory, Park Lane Place, and others keep all the higher taxed revenue to themselves and their own developments, then the city council are to blame when no extra dollars are going into the general fund as a result of that much-needed economic development. THAT is the single-biggest reason we are in this predicament.

sherilenoir
sherilenoir

why, legalizing weed will make us the money we need to clean up this town! (cue wind machine, sparkles and cape unfurling)

HeywoodUBuzzoff
HeywoodUBuzzoff

Maybe all the cash they want to spend on attracting the Olympic games to Dallas could be ground up, mixed into a paste, and stuffed into the potholes or used to wall up alleys. This is the same 'we have to to get serious talk' we hear every year that is soon forgotten as soon as some bright and shining project pops up.   

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

This is just taking our success of removing shoplifting of under 50.00 as crime STAT to a new venue .


WylieH
WylieH

[In the words of Jennifer Staubach Gates, "It's tempting, when we see big projects that are flashy and look good for our city, but it gives me angst sometimes when we go after that at the expense of our basic city services."]

Kingston, Griggs, Medrano, Greyson, Gates.... winds of change, they're a comin'.


duanewmurphy
duanewmurphy

I vote for a city name change, we can now call it Dal-troit. therefore we can be ahead of the inevitable future, of this once fair city.

blankcur1
blankcur1

As far as a solution, break up the city into 2/3/4 separate entities.Let South Dallas Merge with Downtown. Uptown and West Dallas, East, North and Far North. It would work. 

blankcur1
blankcur1

Why are we even focusing on that stuff? We need to look at the New Park, New Arts District, the Nice Bridge, The Omni, the Unfinished (Unstarted) trinity river project! Pay attention to these new shiny things. 


And don't forget the inland port project! we don't need those monies, because Perot needs more for himself. 


If Republicans ever learn. 

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

When I lived in the Belmont addition area it was unbearable.  I have two cars, a Mini Cooper and a 4x4 truck.  I couldn't drive the Mini because of the potholes. 


Besides lack of maintenance, another issue contributing is the failure of the city and utility companies to communicate. Basically the city repaves the street and Atmos comes by a few months later and does a non-emergency upgrade.  Now the street is patched rather than a solid surface.  This even happen within the City departments.  The Street department performed a scheduled repaving of my alley, less than a year later, the water department cut into it to upgrade the water lines.


With regard to the proposed alley abandonment.  Since most neighborhoods which have alleys not used for garage access (M-Streets, Oak Cliff, etc.) also have suspended power lines in the alley, the City cannot just say they are abandoning the alleys and the homeowners can take over the alley and move their fences back.  Oncor, as well as the telephone and cable companies still have utility easements which they need access.  In fact many time the water and sewer lines are under the alley, therefore the City itself will need access.  What happens then is the alleys become worse jungles than they already are.  The garbage truck traffic used to keep it relatively clear. 

bin000
bin000

Stop building show bridges & sporting areas.

Stop privatizing toll roads & any other city services.

lecterman
lecterman

The city does this to itself by giving many huge tax breaks to large businesses to come here, and further tax the infrastructure without contributing to its maintenance.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

There's nothing worse than seeing a neighborhood(in any city) filled with trash cans sitting out in front waiting to be picked up. The city/developer's need to cut cost out of a new project by eliminating alleys is just another rush to the bottom in our society. Combine that with the front location of a two car garage that can't hold a car due to the hoarding practices of the home owner. Then you have the 3 cars in front.
Trash.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@NewsDog  you forgot the horse park, dont ever forget the horsepark or the accused animal abuser who is going to run it.  THAT, is world class

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@James080 What you say is funny because the city made a bunch of people in East Dallas/Lakewood/Lake Highlands switch from alley trash collection to street side collection a few years ago, because alleys.

WylieH
WylieH

@casiepierce  The extension of the Victory Park TIF, alone, appeared to transfer approximately $100 million in tax revenues from the general fund to the control of the developers of Victory--- where they can use the money for basically any purpose.

nascar
nascar

@WylieH  Remove Gates from that list. She's not sure which line she wants to stand in. Still under the Mayor's spell. 

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@blankcur1 You can't blame the Republicans for the Inland Port fiasco.  That had Southern Dallas  (i.e. Democrats) politicians all over it.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Rumpunch1  And when the alley gets completely destroyed (as it has behind my parents' house) the city just reroutes the garbage trucks to the street, and the alley get even worse.  Check out some of the Bruton Terrace alleys -- they are completely and totally impassable, even to garbage trucks.  The holes and swells are so high (literally 24+ inches) that even a big truck would get stuck trying to get past them.

Daniel
Daniel

@Rumpunch1  This shocked me when I read it, too. How the hell does a city councilperson not know that there is utility ROW under our alleys? I know that. You know that. Walt the Postman knows that. The people who run the city do not know that.


(Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo voice) Like yikes, we're doooooomed!

WylieH
WylieH

@Rumpunch1  Remember when Mary Nix just unilaterally made the decision to stop garbage trucks driving down the alleys, complaining that residents had made them unusable?  The residents then had to point out that it was the City itself had created the problem by issuing building permits for stuff on city right-of-ways, allowing utilities to build stuff that encroached on the alleys, and just basically mismanaging the entire process.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com I used to think of you as a somewhat precocious, well-intentioned drilling protestor. Now I see you're more of a sheltered, naive, impractical professional whiner.

Guesty
Guesty

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com  "There's nothing worse than seeing a neighborhood(in any city) filled with trash cans sitting out in front waiting to be picked up."


Wow, talk about 1st world problems.  

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com  I grew up in a neighborhood with front entry garages and let me tell ya, it was great.  There was no trash issues and people parked in their garages.  Also it meant people actually interacted with their neighbors and children played together, rather than pulling in the back of your house and secluding yourself and never seeing the front yard for more than checking the mail from the driver seat

James080
James080

@Montemalone @James080 

So they destroyed the alleys with their trash trucks, then shifted collection to the streets, which they are probably tearing up now.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@WylieH @casiepierceAnd that's my point. How much (tax abatement) did we give Hunt to keep his building in exactly the same place that he'd planned to put it in the first place??? I have said for years- we shouldn't be whoring ourselves out. If Dallas is so great for investment then let it come. But we started down that "slippery slope" decades ago and now everyone who wants to build/relocate their economic development engines all want a piece of us. When did Dallas lose our self respect?

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

@Daniel @Rumpunch1 Actually it was the assistant city manager who didn't think of that.  That actually makes her comment scarier.  We can forgive council members for not understanding the facts before they speak.

nascar
nascar

@WylieH There are a lot of "Remember whens" for Mary Nix. Remember when she unilaterally made the decision to have businesses in the CBD move their trash cans to the front of their businesses?


Remember when she claimed the city's flow control ordinance was all about "going green" when, in fact, it was nothing more than a plan to generate revenue for Suhm who was trying to balance the budget despite the fact that flow control was in violation of existing contracts with private waste haulers? 


Remember when the city's auditor found all kinds of shenanigans in the Sanitation Department under Nix's watch and said the City lost AT LEAST $1 million? 


Remember when this town's daily reported Nix's hiring of retired City employees as temporary workers even though Suhm had advised the Mayor and City Council repeatedly that this practice had been discontinued? 


Remember when NIx was removed from post following the internal audit? Where is she now? Still running around City Hall unsupervised and making more decisions unilaterally. Making more "Remember whens."



Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

@WylieH @Rumpunch1 I do remember her decision.  I also remember our complaints about the decision went nowhere.


When I lived in Belmont, many of my neighbors would "forget" to roll their trashcans back to the house.  However, since I lived on the corner and did not forget, many of those same neighbors would just throw bags of dog shit on my side yard since there was no thrash can to throw it away.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

@Guesty This is another example for the City to do less due to their mismanagement, as we pay more. Anything to make the City of Dallas' life easier is the problem we have now on so many levels.They already have us bent over on a daily basis, at least they could use a better grade of lube.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

@gangstead1 @dallasdrilling.wordpress.comLet's see.... with bulky trash pickup, City of Dallas says you can put out your crap on the curb with a garbage bag( from diapers to furniture) on the Thursday before the following week. So once a month, you can have a "landfill" on the front curb at some houses for anywhere from 5-7 days, depending on when the truck comes around. If you eliminated the city wide bulky trash pickup in total, I'll go with the trash cans out front once a week.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @MaxNoDifference@blankcur1 

You have to admit they were doing Perot's bidding. 

He wasn't gonna let business decamp from Alliance.

Funny thing is, it's happening anyway, just a result of crooked politicians and their enablers, of both parties.

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

Whatever dude.  My suburban street, which you probably wouldn't piss on if it was on fire, is lined with so many cars parked on the streets it feels like a bobsled course.  Part and parcel of living in an old neighborhood.    

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