On February 25, 2007, at the Fourth Annual Trinity Commons Foundation Membership Luncheon at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel, Mayor Laura Miller tells a packed, $150-a-plate crowd how she and former Dallas County Judge Lee Jackson used $600,000 in private money to hire two experts to design the Trinity River toll road. She says they were, “Alex Krieger from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who is a professor at Harvard, has his own design firm, and a guy named Bill Eager from Seattle, Washington, neither of whom has a dog in the hunt.”
The appreciative crowd of fat cats smile and clap while Miller describes the road Krieger and Eager had designed for them: “If you have ever been on Storrow Drive in Boston, where I was last week, if you have ever been on the Merit Parkway in Connecticut or the Rock Creek Parkway in D.C., that’s what this is going to look like. Not your wide tollway.”
Then, on March 22, Krieger sends Miller an e-mail telling her the current plans for the toll road along the Trinity are not at all what he and Eager had designed: Krieger writes that he saw "absolutely no evidence of concern for the ‘context sensitive design’ that was promised as part of the balanced plan." He adds, "What concerned me most was that the engineering of the road was proceeding as if it were a great big interstate highway instead of a parkway.”
A few days later, Eager writes Miller accusing the city of a breach of faith: “We had a deal to make this Parkway of a design appropriate to a park setting.” He warns her that the toll road along the river, on which trucks are supposed to be banned, is being designed to accommodate trucks: “The only reason for 12-foot lanes would be if there is not really a commitment to ‘no trucks,’” Eager warns.
Miller utters not one word publicly about these e-mails until after the last week of April, when city council member Angela Hunt finally receives a package of documents she had demanded from city staff under the Texas Public Information Act. Included in the package are the Krieger and Eager e-mails.
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On April 30 in a debate with Miler on KRLD-AM (1080), Hunt confronts Miller about the e-mails, but Miller sticks to her story: “It’s just unfortunate, after so much work has been done on such a wonderful project, that it is perhaps imperiled because of this petition.”
Two nights ago, Miller and I exchange several e-mails, which I am writing about in my column for today's paper version of Unfair Park. During that exchange, Miller concedes that Krieger and Eager are right: The toll road now under design for the Trinity River Project is not what the experts designed and not what Miller has been describing to people -- a parkway like Storrow Drive or Rock Creek Parkway.
“They alerted me in the e-mails you have in hand,” Miller says in her e-mail to me. “Because of their concerns about what they saw in preliminary designs, the city manager and I have complained to NTTA and told them to fix it. We fully expect that they will. Otherwise they won't have a road project on city-owned land since ALL parties agreed on the road just as Krieger and Eager designed it -- NTTA, COG, City of Dallas, TXDOT, Dallas County.”
Just to be clear: Miller is now saying the road being designed now is so far from what her experts designed that it may need to be killed: “Otherwise they won't have a road project on city-owned land…” Just to be clear. --Jim Schutze