Idiot's Highway

That toll road they want for the Trinity is a loser

The mixmaster looks like it comes in for about a 4 percent drop in traffic, fewer than 7,000 cars a day out of 202,000. The very best bang for the buck is along Stemmons Freeway northwest of downtown, where you get a drop of about 23,000 cars a day, but that's still only a 7 percent relief from the 313,400 cars a day you'd have on Stemmons without the new toll road.

And again, several key segments of the freeway system downtown show actual increases in traffic with the new toll road built--more congestion--as opposed to what would be there if the new road were not built at all.

But here is the other amazing and intriguing piece of the puzzle: The NTTA study shows some very stiff traffic volumes on the new toll road, predicted the minute it opens, if it opens in 2007. They're predicting about 40,000 to 65,000 cars a day along most of the new road.

This schematic is supposed to show how you could use the proposed Trinity River toll road to get around downtown. If you can figure it out, you may qualify for a Nobel Prize or something.
This schematic is supposed to show how you could use the proposed Trinity River toll road to get around downtown. If you can figure it out, you may qualify for a Nobel Prize or something.

So what is that all about? If this new road is taking as many as 65,000 cars out of the existing road system, why is traffic going to be worse on Central, and why are the benefits so minuscule in the mixmaster and elsewhere?

Isn't it possible that the new road, far from pushing traffic out of the core of the city, is sucking it in? Isn't that what Morris' philosophy of radialism is really all about? And do we want more traffic and more pollution and more automobile congestion downtown? Do we want holes in our heads?

You can bet bringing more cars downtown is what the developers along the proposed route want. They keep marching around City Hall chanting "Access is success." Sure it is. For them.

But why would we let the people who happen to own land along the river run our future? Even the people in Forney are too smart to turn over all of the planning and public investment policy for their town to the four guys who own fireworks stands out on Highway 80.

There is a real possibility that building this road will blow out the plug in the canal and suck in all kinds of suburban traffic. Big traffic is like big water: If we don't make sure we know what all of the measurements are, we could drown.

I also spent some time studying the connections they propose to tie the road into the rest of the city. I was thinking about how you and I could use the new road to get from other parts of the city to downtown. This is what I came up with, based on the way they have it laid out. Let's say you were in the Park Cities, and you wanted to use it to get downtown. Here's how you would go:

Take Mockingbird Lane all the way across town past Love Field to the intersection of Stemmons Freeway and 183. Get on the service road for the new toll road going southeast to Hampton-Inwood Road, where you will get on the new toll road for 1.5 miles. Get off just before Continental Avenue, divert to Industrial Boulevard for a little less than a mile, then take Commerce Street into downtown under the triple underpass. Or you could stay on the toll road to I-35E, but then you could only get off to go south across the river into Oak Cliff, where you would get off at Colorado Boulevard, loop back under and onto the freeway, come back across the river, take I-35E north and get off at Reunion.

Sure. Or you could stay on the toll road all the way into South Dallas, take Martin Luther King Boulevard to I-45 north and then drive back up to downtown. But you'd have to be an idiot first.

This road is designed to get people from somewhere around the D/FW airport to Seagoville. It won't be built entirely with our money, but it will entirely ruin the one enormous asset in this picture that is ours alone--the Trinity River where it runs through the heart of the city. All of the supposed benefits of the road--so dubious, anyway, the closer we look--have to be balanced against this one devastating cost.

What if we took our $79 million and built parks and fountains downtown instead? Maybe it's time we act like a city and not let a bunch of suburban regional-schmegionals run all over our backs and churn our downtown to mush.

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