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Jim Schutze Talks Trinity to a Room Full of Engineers and Has the Certificate to Prove It

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When Schutze told me the Dallas Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers asked him to speak this afternoon, I had to tag along, mostly because I was sure he'd made it up. But, sure enough, turned out Jim wasn't just going to the Maggiano's at NorthPark Center for a lonely family-style lunch.

He had a speech to deliver to a bunch of engineers, some of whom are doing work on the Trinity project. Its title? "Will the Trinity River toll road ever be built?" That wasn't tense or awkward at all.

After the jump you'll find a pretty straight-forward recitation of today's speech -- might as well share with you what Schutze told the engineers, even if much of it will be familiar to the Friends of Unfair Park who've been playing along lo these many years. Besides, a boy's got to earn his lunch. You'll also find on the other side the item Jim received from the TSPE ... pardon, the item Dr. Schutze received from the TSPE. (That's what he's making us call him now, sweet fancy Moses.)

As Schutze stood upstairs at the Italian eatery in front of about 125 folks, he described the Trinity River Corridor Project as "a source of a lot of heartfelt and sometimes bitter dispute" and one that is all about commitment to the city, no matter which side you're on.

"Maybe it's time for a fundamental re-examination of this project," he said, stressing that doing so would involve starting from "ground zero" without bias.

He talked about first getting involved in the project while working at the Dallas bureau for the Houston Chronicle, when his boss told him to do a simple write-up. "I didn't know anything or frankly care about the project," Schutze said.

But in researching the story, he spoke with noted Dallas environmentalist Ned Fritz, who told him he had important documents that Schutze should examine if he ever wanted to cover the issue more seriously. When Schutze came to the Observer in 1998, he contacted Fritz (who died in late 2008), and one of the documents he directed him to was the Galloway Report, a flood control document commissioned by the White House after the Mississippi floods of the early '90s.

The Galloway Report, Schutze told the crowd, basically said governments were spending millions of dollars only to make the problem worse. And when Schutze contacted Gerald Galloway and other experts about the city's plan to build a road along its levees (which has since been moved into the floodway), he was told: "Nobody would do that."

Of course, Schutze faxed schematics to Galloway and the others providing evidence of what he'd been saying. "And the reaction was universal," Schutze said. "This is crazy."

There were lots of blank looks on the engineers' faces at this point, and then it got even better when Schutze told them that The Dallas Morning News hasn't interviewed Galloway about the project. Ever.

Schutze moved on to discuss the recent report by the corps', the stoppage of work on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the $29 million levee study, saying it all "seems very big and very important." Yet there is an "absolute commitment" to the road by the city.

Schutze wondered if the road is safe and necessary, calling it an "outdated idea," although he acknowledged voters supported it in two elections. He urged a re-examination of the road while there's time and "before something goes south."

Only two people were gutsy enough to ask questions, with one wondering if politics are more important than the issues (to which Schutze quickly responded, "Yes") and the other asking about delays resulting from the levee report.

We're hoping any goodwill from Schutze's speech will land us both front seats at next month's meeting, where Rebecca Dugger, the city's Trinity River Corridor Project director, will deliver her speech: "The Trinity River project lives despite reports to the contrary."

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