Design for Lying: How Can The News Talk Toll Road Design When There Ain't One Yet?

Wonder if Schutze ran into Angela Hunt when she was out snapping photos of the flooded Trinity River
Wonder if Schutze ran into Angela Hunt when she was out snapping photos of the flooded Trinity River

Rudy Bush has a story in this morning's Dallas Morning News attempting, thank goodness, to do the reporting that Bruce Tomaso did not do yesterday in his blog item about flooding and the proposed Trinity River toll road. Bush has accepted our suggestion on Unfair Park yesterday that The News at least tell readers what the National Weather Service has to say about flood crests on the Trinity and related flood damage projections.

But, look: There is still a gaping logic hole in Bush's story. The headline is: "Would the rains have flooded the Trinity Toll Road?"

The first word of the story, set aside in its own paragraph, is: "No."

And how does he know that? Bush asserts four paragraphs later that the toll road, if built, "will be designed to withstand more than a 100 year flood."

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The problem? It's this: Theoretically, you could design a road that would stand 500 feet above the crest of the highest predicted flood on the river. You could build the whole thing on gigantic stilts. But the cost would be in the kabillions of dollars.

Dallas has no idea how it is going to pay for the massive repair and restoration 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 even think about designing a road between the levees when the levees themselves aren't safe.

The flat assertion that the toll road will be designed -- implicitly, built -- at levels higher than the 100-year flood without endangering the levee system is straight-up propaganda at this point, blithely reported as news in The News.

Why is it important, when these rain events occur, to keep showing pictures of the water on the blog? Because it's important to give people a chance to make a common sense appraisal of the wisdom of even trying to build a road in the middle of a floodway.

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 all of those numbers are already obsolete, given what we know about the condition of the levees.

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. They don't want the road sitting on the land they want to develop. It's not a transportation project. All the numbers show that it will do a poor job of relieving congestion, because it doesn't go where people already want to go.

In fact, that's the point. Look around downtown, and you will see a wonderful amount of energy and activity happening naturally, in spite of tough times -- just not where the old families own their land.

Development driven by market forces is going east and north from downtown. The owners of The News and the owners of the old Stemmons industrial corridor want it to go south and west. They want to use tax money in the form of public infrastructure to turn the market. They want to use your money to force the market to go where it doesn't otherwise want to go.

Hence, this toll road inside the levees. Hence, a proposed second rail line through downtown that bypasses the natural locus for residential density and meanders instead over to The News-owned land on the moribund southwest corner of downtown.

Given that very determined agenda, little guys like Rudy Bush have no option but to write propaganda and hope they can squeeze in a few face-saving paragraphs of true reporting. And, to Bush's credit, at least he tries, unlike Tomaso.

Here is the question: I the natural direction of real estate development in and around downtown Dallas seems so obviously to be north and east, why would the city invest huge time and money -- in the form of serious public debt -- to turning that development south and west? North by northeast? Or south by southwest?

Will we ever see a big analytical piece about that question in The News. I ...do ... not ... think so.


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