Each month, the Advocate talks with District 12 councilmember Sandy Greyson about issues being discussed Downtown and how they affect Far North Dallas.
This month … Trinity toll road
Mayor Mike Rawlings recently voiced his support for the construction of a $1.4 billion toll road in the Trinity River Corridor to help relieve traffic congestion, reviving the debate about safety and how the city can promote smart growth. Only three councilmembers oppose the project: Angela Hunt, Scott Griggs and our own Sandy Greyson.
The Trinity toll road was first proposed 15 years ago. The original concept for a road between the levees was a low-speed road (45 mph or less) that would serve as access to the proposed lakes and other recreational amenities along the river. When the North Texas Tollway Authority said they wouldn’t be able to finance a low-speed road, it became a limited access, high-speed toll road (55 mph). At that point, many people became convinced that such a road would be incompatible with the planned lakes, trails, ball fields and other recreational aspects of the Trinity Corridor Project. Also, this tollway would be built in a floodway. A floodway is meant to carry floodwaters away from the city. Putting thousands of tons of concrete in the floodway would reduce its capacity to carry water and would make the water it did carry run faster and deeper. The levees would have to be raised. There’s a very good reason why a tollway has never before been built in a floodway — it’s a bad idea.
The mayor says the levees are safer than we thought, and that the Army Corps of Engineers is ready to sign off on it. Does that affect your position at all?
The Corps of Engineers hasn’t yet signed off on putting this road between the levees and can’t make any definitive statements or decisions until after the environmental impact statement for the floodway is completed. The Corps has sent the city mixed signals ever since the inception of the Trinity project.
Supporters of the project say that if you’re against the toll road, then you’re against Dallas growing. What do you think are some smarter ways for us to accommodate growth besides building another toll road?
Being against a tollway in a floodway doesn’t mean being against growth or what’s best for the future of Dallas. Toll road opponents think there are better and safer ways to relieve traffic congestion around Downtown. Expansion of our mass transit system would help take cars off the roads. But the real fix for the congestion is to complete Project Pegasus. Project Pegasus is the Texas Department of Transportation plan for the reconstruction of the “canyon,” “mixmaster” and Lower Stemmons. At the time of the 2007 referendum on whether to keep the toll road as a part of the Trinity Project, voters were told that Project Pegasus couldn’t be done without the Trinity toll road as a “reliever road” for traffic while Pegasus was being constructed. But a portion of Pegasus called the “horseshoe” is indeed going forward right now. The horseshoe project will rebuild the Interstate 30 and Interstate 35 bridges over the Trinity as well as some connector ramps. We should then build out the rest of Pegasus. We can do so for less money than it would cost to build the Trinity toll road — $1 billion versus $1.4 billion — and Pegasus will relieve more congestion than the Trinity.
The 2007 referendum to stop the project failed. With you, Hunt and Griggs as the only councilmembers against it, what’s next? Could another referendum be in the works?
I don’t know if anyone will undertake another referendum. Collecting so many signatures is doable but a daunting task. My hope is that everyone will take a serious look at completing Pegasus. There currently is no funding for either Pegasus or Trinity, but if funding is found, isn’t it wiser to spend it on the better, safer and less expensive solution for congestion?