Vonciel Jones Hill Tells Legislators Trinity Toll Road Is about Civil Rights

Vonciel Jones Hill Tells Legislators Trinity Toll Road Is about Civil Rights
Trinity Commons Foundation

There's probably not enough time -- about five weeks, give or take -- left in 2015's session of the Texas Legislature to get anything done with regard to Dallas state Representative Rafael Anchia's dual Trinity toll road-killing bills. Wednesday, though, they did get a hearing at the state capitol, and boy was it fun.

Not, mind you, because anything substantially new was said. Anchia's bills would bar the state from providing funding for the project and force any potential version of the toll road to go through an environmental review, something that, to this point, it's been exempted from. Considering the proposed road is basically unfunded and that any environmental review would take at least the better part of a decade, both bills would kneecap the project. If they passed. They won't.

The futility of today's exercise didn't stop some of Dallas' best and brightest from trekking the 200 miles down Interstate 35. From City Council member Sandy Greyson and former City Council member Angela Hunt, both long-time opponents of the road, we heard the arguments we've heard so many times before: The toll road would destroy the park, public support for it has declined and that the state should not bail out the project with money no other entity wants to provide. Hunt mocked the watercolors that have been used time and again to sell the various visions of those who support a road.

In between Greyson's and Hunt's testimony came the hearing's highlight. Four minutes of Vonciel Jones Hill. It was the outgoing, term-limited City Council member's "once more with feeling" moment, and she nailed it, clinging to the unpopular, unfunded road with all the verve and gusto we've learned to expect from her over the past eight years.

To get the full effect, you should watch the video, starting just after the 21-minute mark. Otherwise, read these highlights as though they were delivered by a stern sixth-grade teacher admonishing a group of insolent students.

"It is strange to me that when we were building roads to the north we didn't argue about how to cobble together the funding, it is only now that we are building a road that benefits the south and the southeast where the demographic is primarily African-American and Hispanic.

"I hear a lot about how the parkway is going to ruin our park. Well, there is no park down there. 'It will interfere with our lakes,' well there are no lakes down there. It is a big ditch. People care about lakes, and I'm glad. People care about a park, and I'm glad, but the people in southern Dallas and southeast Dallas need an additional transportation artery to get to work. That's what this is about, getting people to their jobs.

"In the bond election and the 2007 referendum, both of which were approved by the people of the city of Dallas, there is reference, it is clear, that this will be a high-speed road and tolling will be a component. Those who do not remember that are conveniently forgetting."

The sub-committee hearing Anchia's proposals left both bills pending. The fight over the toll road is now all but sure to be fought, as it always has been, in Dallas.


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