The battle over the potential toll road between the Trinity River levees, Dallas municipal politics' forever war, is finally winding down. On Wednesday, during a Dallas City Council briefing, a clear majority of the council members, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, a longtime supporter of the road, indicated that they are ready to reject what's known as Alternative 3C, the only approved version of the potential toll road.
“I don’t think the city wants that at this point,” Rawlings said Monday, echoing the sentiments of a nearly unanimous council. Even former steadfast supporters of the road, like District 13's Jennifer Staubach Gates and District 5's Lee Kleinman, seemed resigned to giving up on it, citing lack of support from the districts through which the proposed toll road would run and lack of funding for the road from the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority.
"Unfortunately, out of the seven council members that represent southern Dallas, there appears to only be one that's still supportive of this project," Kleinman said. "As chair of [the council's transportation committee], I would like to deliver what my colleagues want here."
What Kleinman's colleagues want — made clear again Wednesday — is an end to a project that opponents believe would sully the universally desired park between the levees and fail to deliver the traffic relief the road was initially intended to provide.
"It’s a road without a purpose," North Oak Cliff's Scott Griggs said. “It is time to put it out of misery."
For the better part of a decade, Griggs has helped lead the charge against a road he's repeatedly blasted as a boondoggle. The proposed toll road "represents transportation from 50, 60 years ago," he said. "I very much look forward next week to just killing 3C so we can move on and get a park, which is what we really want."
Finding the funding for a road that is projected to cost as much as $2 billion, Griggs said, is a waste of time when it isn't clear whom the road would benefit.
"The city's not going to put in the money, TxDOT's not going to put in the money ... NTTA's not going to put in the money," Griggs said. "We now know that the the toll road — 3C — is not going to provide the mobility and congestion relief that's needed. The toll road isn't needed for economic development in West Dallas. It's not needed for economic development in North Oak Cliff. It's not needed for economic development in District 7 [South Dallas and Fair Park], and it's not needed for economic development in Pleasant Grove."
Despite a federal traffic study that showed the potential toll road would increase traffic for southern Dallas residents trying to get to jobs elsewhere in the city, Rickey Callahan, the single southern Dallas council member who indicated Wednesday that he supports the road, insisted that not building the road was tantamount to discrimination against his Pleasant Grove-focused district.
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"What you're doing, council, by taking action to kill 3C, is you're robbing the future of the people that I've been entrusted to represent," Callahan said. "It's patently unfair. It's really socioeconomic discrimination."
Griggs initially said Wednesday that he hoped for a unanimous decision by the City Council to kill off the round. After Callahan promised to vote for the road, Griggs said he hopes there will be a supermajority against the it.
If the council votes next week to reject the road, the next step in developing the area between the levees will be agreeing on how to move forward with the proposed Trinity park. Rawlings and Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax support the creation of a limited government corporation to oversee building the park. Griggs and his ally on the City Council, Philip Kingston, are opposed to making an immediate decision on the park, but Rawlings wants the LGC signed off on as early as possible.
“It’s time to end [the toll road]. Once that’s done, that’s the time to start having discussions about the park," Griggs told the Observer's Jim Schutze on Monday. "Public confidence has been eroded over the years by the powers that be always putting the toll road before the park. Now we need to take the road off the table completely before discussing the park. That’s the only way to restore confidence.”