Now That Army Corps of Engineers Doesn't Want Trinity River Toll Road, It's Time to Shift the Blame: Preservationists!

The story in today's Dallas Morning News about possible historic designation for the Trinity River levees falls squarely in the Unintentionally Hilarious category. It says the idea of building the Trinity River toll road project between the flood control levees may be in trouble because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is worried that the levees may be "historic."

The News's story, written by Michael Lindenberger, is absolutely straight-faced and solemn in its treatment of this possible threat to the toll road. In other words: Not at all what I got from a local preservationist who called me when he caught wind of it a couple weeks ago. His take: "Oh, my God, the damn Corps of Engineers is trying to wriggle out of the toll road by blaming it on us!"

The real problem the Corps is facing is that for years the Corps, always eager for more bulldozer work, has insisted building an expressway out where it floods would be no problem. In the post-Katrina era, however, the Corps now must own up to growing indications to the contrary. At least in the highly technical terminology of fluid dynamics, meteorology and earth science engineering, putting an expressway out where it floods now appears to be what scientists might call, "the dumbest idea in the history of the world."

The Corps would like to blame its wriggle-out on somebody else. Hence the idea that, oh sure, the mud mounds that protect downtown from flooding are historic monuments so they can't have a highway near them.

I mean, that's why it can't be done, man! The engineering of building an expressway out where it floods is still absolutely solid. It's those flakey history buffs! They're the ones screwing it up!


The Texas Historical Commission, fearful of being caught in the middle, is fighting me on Public Information Act demands for documents. More on this in my column in the paper next week.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze