Yesterday afternoon, the council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee learned about the inner workings of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from their newly appointed liaison, Kevin Craig. Described by Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan as the No. 2 civilian at the corps' district office in Fort Worth, Craig previously served as chief of the civil works project management branch. Now he'll be working full-time on the Trinity project at the corps' division office in Dallas, Jordan announced.
We weren't expecting much during the presentation, but the committee discussion afterward provided a surprising line of questioning from Mitchell Rasansky, who has been a strong supporter of the toll road. Rasansky asked Craig about the biggest obstacle faced by the corps regarding the Trinity project.
"From my perspective, my whole focus is to ensure that we keep the main theme the main theme," Craig said.
Unhappy with Craig's politicized answer, Rasansky decided that replacing "obstacle" with the phrase "stumbling block" would elicit a better response.
"There are design challenges in order to accommodate all the features that we want to put in the Dallas floodway," Craig said. "We've known that from the beginning."
Challenges, say you? Rasansky probed Craig for an example.
"Making sure that all of the components can be put into the floodway without decreasing the capacity of that floodway to carry floods," Craig said.
Yikes. But you guys can figure that one out, right?
"Being an engineer, I think that there are ways to overcome just about every obstacle," Craig said.
"You're absolutely correct," Rasansky said. "All it takes is money and time."
As Jim outlined in "Baby Mitch," Rasansky is the last council member anyone would have expected to endorse the Trinity Turnpike. His motivations for doing so may never be known, but as he gets closer to leaving the council because of term limits, it appears his opinion on the road is souring.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who said he was speaking "in the mayor's absence," claimed a "play was called in the huddle" when the referendum on the toll road took place. He added that it's up to the mayor and council to execute it on behalf of the citizens.
"It was a pretty bold and wise move for the mayor to have traveled to Washington [D.C.] to attempt to not circumvent but make sure the focus of this project and the play that was called in that huddle is moving forward," Caraway said.
We caught up with Craig after the meeting, who assured us that Gene Rice of the corps will still be "very active" and remains as the project manager for the floodway component of the Trinity project. Craig's new position is technically "acting" director of the Trinity River Corridor Project, as he notes the position officially must be advertised as a competitive process.
Craig, who will receive a pay raise with the promotion, says he spent at least 50 percent of his time on the Trinity project prior to his new position where instead he will devote all of his time to the project.
He describes the communication between the city and corps as "good," and when asked if there has been a lack of effort on either side, he said, "No. We've communicated. They've communicated."
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Craig says Mayor Tom Leppert's trip to Washington, D.C. "certainly was a factor" in the creation of his new gig, but he stresses that the corps was also considering such a maneuver because of the numerous projects on their table. And, let's be honest. This one's a biggie.
"It's certainly one of the most complex we've had," Craig says. "We haven't taken an existing floodway and tried to put a roadway within it. It is very high up there in terms of the level of effort required to make sure that it's done right. And that's really part of the reason why this position is being created -- to make sure we have that focus."
So does Craig feel the corps gets a bad wrap by toll road proponents who whine that they are taking too long?
"I'm not going to respond to that," Craig says. "But I'll say we're going to continue to do what is right to ensure the project is moving forward in accordance with the public-safety-first mantra."