By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
In a word: Well, that answers that. Sort of.
On Tuesday, Dallas Morning News reporter Rudy Bush attempted to answer a straightforward question: Would all the rain the city's been having lately have flooded the toll road that City Hall wants to build alongside the Trinity River, between the levees?
"No" was Bush's one-word opening paragraph.
Which leads to another, bigger question: How the hell does he know?
Last we heard, the Army Corps of Engineers was expressing some doubts about how well the levees themselves would withstand a big flood. Now we're told that, never mind the state of the levees, that odd plan to build a roadway right smack in the river's floodplain will work just fine. Sure, the road hasn't even been designed yet, but rest assured that when it is, it will be able to withstand a once-in-a-century flood.
For some reason, Buzz isn't assured.
Theoretically you could build the whole road on gigantic stilts, but the cost would be in the kabillions. Right now, Dallas has no idea how it is going to pay for the massive repairs needed to bring the existing levee system up to minimal safety standards. Design work on the toll road has halted, because it's absurd to design a road between the levees when the levees themselves aren't safe.
The flat assertion that the toll road will be designed—and, implicitly, built—at levels higher than the 100-year flood without endangering the levee system is straight-up propaganda. Of course, Bush may be right and the road will be built to withstand such a flood, but that raises the question of whether building it adjacent to the river is a smart idea. Mother Nature has been sending us hints this past week. Big, wet hints that we'd be crazy to ignore.
The core assertion of the toll road proponents during the 2007 referendum was that a route between the levees would be cheaper than one just outside the levees along Industrial Boulevard. But given the known condition of the levees, all those numbers are obsolete.
The real reason the backers of the inside-the-floodway alignment want it there, instead of along Industrial, is that this is a road designed to promote real estate development along Industrial. Development driven by market forces is going east and north from downtown. The owners of the Morning News and the owners of the old Stemmons industrial corridor want it to go south and west.
Hence, this toll road inside the levees. But don't worry. It won't flood. You have the Morning News' word on that.