Earlier today, Jim Schutze wrote that Mayor Laura Miller "directly misled the public" concerning the design of the Trinity Parkway. This afternoon, the mayor responds.
Schutze, you are wrong.
The four-lane Trinity Parkway is precisely what the City of Dallas plans to build.
We worked hard to forge a compromise four years ago between people who were wedded to the original, eight-lane monster highway (four lanes on each side of the river bottom), and those that wanted a no-road option. I was one of those who advocated removing the road altogether if we could find a better place to put it, away from the lakes.
Our experts, Bill Eager from Seattle and Alex Krieger from Boston, told us after looking at it for months that there was nowhere else to put the parkway. The only possible solution, Industrial Boulevard, would require eminent domain of dozens of businesses, would be more expensive and would create an impenetrable barrier between downtown and the river (you've got those e-mails, too, if you care to share them with your readers).
But Eager and Krieger said the proposed toll road would only work if it were built in a specific way -- as a parkway, all on the downtown side, with half the number of lanes, with curves and landscaping and soft shoulders, and no giant breakdown or auxilary lanes; in other words, nothing that would make it look like the George Bush Freeway (or an airplane runway for an Airbus).
Krieger and Eager designed it, and the City Council unanimously approved it.
Now, when Krieger comes to town to check on the progress of their work, and he sees anything other than what they designed, he complains. Loudly. As he should. And city councilmembers and city staff complain with him.
It's not the city that's the problem. Or the city's Trinity River design team -- headed up by our outside consultant Wendy Lopez and her consortium of engineers, urban planners and architects we hired earlier this year to design the entire Trinity Project.
It is only a problem because the North Texas Tollway Authority, which is currently the contractor that is slated to build the road, has never built the kind of road we are requiring be built.
The NTTA's subcontractor on our project, Halff & Associates, used to be the city's consultant on the whole project. Halff designed the original eight-lane monster road. When I became mayor, we stopped using Halff for that very reason. Instead we hired Krieger and Eager TO CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE ROAD. And after they designed the new parkway, we hired Wendy Lopez to make sure that Krieger's and Eager's road got built.
But with Halff still working for the NTTA, some of that big-road-itis continues to exist. Which is why we keep bringing Krieger back down here to check things out and complain about the road if it begins to morph into what we don't want (hence the e-mail you cite).
The NTTA understands the problem. They know how the road needs to be built to satisfy the City of Dallas. They know if that the road's final design -- which is not close to being done because we are still in the conceptual stage -- is not what's in the Balanced Vision Plan, they won't be building the road. At least not with this Mayor and City Council (half of whom are leaving in two months, as you know).
Alex Krieger and Bill Eager complain to me because I asked them to. Because we can't fix the problems implementing their design unless we know what's happening on the drafting tables of the engineers who are paid to translate the aesthetic into the concrete. A whole lot can get lost in translation.
I have personally told you many times over the past few years that former council member Sandy Greyson and I were the ones that pushed hardest in the meetings with all the funding partners four years ago for the Eager-Krieger road design. We had knock-down drag-outs about it. We felt passionately that the entire Trinity Project would fail if the road wasn't built just as Eager and Krieger envisioned it, and we worried constantly about what would happen to that road once its loudest proponents were gone from City Hall.
Well, Sandy is no longer on the Council; I leave in June. Who will champion the most critical element of the project now? Who will jump on the NTTA when Krieger sends his next e-mail, alerting us to problems? (I've asked Angela Hunt to be a council champion many times -- she has the fire and intensity to be the new road watchdog if she chooses.)
If all the time, energy, money and media time we are currently spending trying to reinvent the wheel here were instead spent making sure the parkway gets built correctly (as an amenity to the park, not a detriment), we would have a terrific project -- a balanced project, just like the name reflects, that gives us the best of everything.
It's the same project that just won a major national design award from the American Institute of Architects.
Just ask Eager and Krieger what they think. The last thing they want is this petition drive that, if successful, will stop this project in its tracks -- and, believe me, it will.
I've been out raising money for it for five years now. I know the consequences of putting a no-alternative-offered, no-solution-given open question to the voters, all while grossly mischaracterizing the history of the Project and the facts (i.e. the petition supporters' claims and your blog entry today).
I can only do so much between now and when I leave office on June 25. But one thing I can and will do is fight for the thing I am most proud of as mayor: the redesign of a project that I voted against in 1998 because it used to be nothing more than a road project.
Not any more. --Laura Miller