Coulda sworn he said this yesterday, but Sam Coats is gonna say it again, dagnabit: He wants The People to vote on the Trinity River toll road. See, he loves the Trinity River Project (says Coats, "I'm a strong supporter of the Trinity River Project"), and he's all for parks and flood controls. He just wants you and you and you and me (awww) to get the chance to vote on the billion-dollar toll road project that Mayor Laura says you done already voted for.
"We can't move the first shovelful of dirt without an Environmental Impact Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers, and that's still at least a year away," Coats says in a press release issued moments ago, clearly aimed at wooing the Angela Hunt Faction whilst swaying the Jim Schutze Voter. "Where's the harm in using this time to justify the changes to the voters?" Dunno. Ask the mayor. The full release is after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky
COATS BACKS TRINITY VOTE REFERENDUM
Mayoral Candidate Cites Environmental & Fiscal Concerns, Says Referendum Would Force Much-Needed Debate
Former Democratic state representative and airline executive Sam Coats today announced his support for the Trinity Vote referendum to ask Dallas voters if they want to build a billion-dollar toll road inside the Downtown Trinity Park between the river's levees. Speaking to reporters following a Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting that focused on North Texas toll roads, Coats said he had strong reservations about the proposed road alignment and felt that a referendum would force a much-needed debate on the merits of the plan.
"I've got serious concerns about the wisdom of building a billion dollar toll road inside a flood plain where, by definition, it will flood." said Coats. "No other city in the country has ever put a highway this big in between its levees. If we're going to spend a billion dollars of taxpayer money on this road, we darn sure better get it right. And if a public referendum is what we need to finally get some answers, then I'm on board 100%."
When the Trinity Parkway was approved in the 1998 Trinity River Corridor Plan vote, the road was projected to cost $394 million. After years of delays and design changes that morphed the plan from a low-speed parkway to a high-speed, limited-access toll road, the projected cost has ballooned to more than $1 billion. The final price tag is still unknown. The road alignment has also been shifted further into the park, significantly diminishing the amount of new parkland called for in the original plan.
"Is there a better location out there?" asked Coats. "I just don't know. But if the price tag keeps rising like this, then some of those alternatives dismissed as too costly deserve a second look. There's no way I'm going to rubber stamp a billion-dollar project until those questions get answered. I'm not going to be bullied, bought, or blackmailed into thinking any differently."
Coats also dismissed criticism that the referendum was just another attempt to derail the downtown Trinity Park:
"I'm a strong supporter of the Trinity River Project. We need these flood control improvements, and we need these parks. But we can't move the first shovelful of dirt without an Environmental Impact Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers, and that's still at least a year away. Where's the harm in using this time to justify the changes to the voters?"