A little while ago, Dallas Morning News transportation writer Michael Lindenberger posted a story on The News' Web site that says, “The North Texas Tollway Authority will bill the city of Dallas $1.54 million for higher-than-expected planning and design costs for the Trinity Parkway toll road.” His story says the NTTA is blaming the new design costs on “additional requirements from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and what the agency called ‘continuing political challenges.”
I've got calls in myself to the NTTA and to Chris Heinbaugh, the mayor's chief of staff. But I also think right about now would be a great time for News managing editor George Rodrigue to revisit his numerous protestations of innocence and journalistic virginity in the matter of the Lindenberger story about toll road costs that was suppressed by The News until the votes had been counted in the recent toll road referendum.
To their credit, I think the NTTA folks have been trying to be as honest as possible about the fact that Dallas is going to get stuck for a hell of a lot more than the $84-million maximum promised during the campaign by Mayor Tom Leppert and city council person Dave Neumann. In fact, the NTTA told Lindenberger about it before the vote, and the paper sat on his story until the day after the vote.
Now we begin to see the truth. And it’s not just this sock of money. The hint that the NTTA is trying to give us -- “additional requirements from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and what the agency called ‘continuing political challenges’” -- is that this thing is a mess.
The solace I take is that I know the road will never be built. Guess where those Corps of Engineers requirements are coming from? They are coming from the Corps’ knowledge of how dangerous the basic idea is -- you know, building a highway in a floodway.
Remember what Leppert kept saying during the campaign? He told The Bond Buyer on October 30, 2007, "If we take the premise that it's never been done before, think of the opportunities we lose. The reality of it is that the Army Corps of Engineers, TxDOT, and the [North Texas Tollway Authority] have studied this and they say it's safe, it's environmentally sensitive, and economically viable."
Uh, not true. Now both the Corps and the NTTA have said it was not true. Is not true. Won’t be true. They have signed off on nothing.
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Leppert kept saying he was “comfortable” with the costs. Guess what. He was comfortable with the untruth. So was Neumann. And I guess Rodrigue wasn’t feeling any pain either.
Also remember D magazine’s promise in its January 2, 2005, issue, in a story titled “A River Runs Through It” (yuk): “The parkway alone, for example, would cost the city just $84 million, though the actual price was estimated to be five times that amount.”
And remember what Ron Kirk said in ’98, when the original bond issue passed: "This day will go down as one of the greatest in the history of Dallas."
Instead these people will be exposed by history as fools and liars who have wasted the city’s destiny. I’m sure glad I won’t be one of the voters who helped them do it. --Jim Schutze