Today's meeting of the Dallas City Council's Trinity River committee -- during which the committee endorsed this alignment for the proposed Trinity River toll road - was dull and uneventful in ways that were of keen interest to trained Kremlinologists. By observing which members of the committee made eye contact with others and which guest speakers sat on their hands while others spoke, trained Kremlinogists were able to deduce the following possible facts:
The Trinity River Committee is determined never to utter the word "Calatrava," lest that foreign name, like an evil oath or imprecation, conjure up visions of the half-built, hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-costing bridge that sits out in the middle of the Trinity River floodway in suspended animation like some kind of junkyard Stonehenge.
The topic of the bridge might have led to the topic of the huge drilling rig that was trying to bore out a hole for one of the bridge piers and started swaying back and forth because the soil underneath -- which the city had forgotten to test -- had turned to soup, according to that quite critical report of the incident by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
If a member of the Trinity River Committee this morning had asked, "Hey, what's up with that bridge?" then all hell might have busted loose.
Someone else might have said, "They stopped work on it because it's the rainy season right now, and the Corps of Engineers is afraid the bridge may damage the flood control levees and wipe out downtown." Then someone else might have said, "Well, what kind of idiots are we, then, for plunging ahead with plans for a big honking toll road inside the levees if the Corps is worried we're going to wipe out downtown?"
And it just would have gone downhill from there. So instead?
Council member David Neumann, who chairs the committee and loves the toll road, and council member Linda Koop, who just loves the toll road, both stared up at the acoustic tiles while a consultant droned through a slide show telling them how well the recent public hearing on the plan had gone. Not a word was asked about the swaying drilling rig.
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One Kremlinologist -- well, me -- tried to sit in the back of the room and sway back and forth gently in a suggestion of the motion of the rig, hoping this might plant a kind of subliminal suggestion, but the eyes of the committee seemed to be rigidly averted, another meaningful clue for the trained Kremlinologist.
Council member Carolyn Davis asked questions indicating she was not clear on the difference between the Corps of Engineers, the North Texas Tollway Authority and "Austin." She also was uncertain why the committee was voting on a preferred alignment if members of the public already had voted on it at the recent hearing. She also was uncertain why both the committee and the full council should vote on the same thing.
Trained Kremlinogists have long believed that Carolyn Davis is exactly the kind of council member that backers of the Trinity River toll road want to see in there -- she and Linda Koop.
In the end they voted to recommend that the full council adopt Alignment 3C as the locally preferred option. That's the one that's out in the middle of the proposed park. The consultant explained to them in very polite and oblique terms that their recommendations will wind up being totally irrelevant if the Corps of Engineers decides that putting a toll road inside the levees may wipe out downtown Dallas -- unless, of course, by then there is a general consensus that wiping out downtown Dallas might not be such a bad idea after all.