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| Schutze |

NTTA Says We're Parking Up the Wrong Tree. Sure, Whatever You Say.

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So, a couple of items down below, I wrote about a story posted on The Dallas Morning News' Web site, which says the North Texas Tollway Authority is about to bill Dallas an extra $1.54 million for design of the Trinity River toll road. I suggested it might be about time for Morning News managing editor George Rodrigue to eat some crow, along with Mayor Tom Leppert, for having worked so hard during the toll road referendum to hide the ball on soaring costs for this project. After we posted the item, I received the following, completely nonsensical communication from NTTA spokeswoman, Shirley Coffelt:

“Dear Jim, Good to hear from you. I know exactly what you are referring to in the Dallas Morning News and that article is being changed because it is misleading. There were no cost overruns.

“Today we authorized a resolution for NTTA's Executive Director to negotiate and execute a supplemental agreement for approx. $1.5 million which would draw down from the $84 million bond that was approved in 1998.

“Thanks, Sherita Coffelt, Assistant Public Information Officer, North Texas Tollway Authority.”

Then I checked The News’ Web site and found they had added this paragraph to their story: “NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt said the extra costs will not push the city over the $84 million it already has committed to the toll road project.”

Let me run this down for you.

The NTTA says they have run into $1.54 million in new costs due to scoping problems and political difficulties. They are billing Dallas for this money.

I guess it’s fair for the NTTA to say this is not an NTTA “cost overrun,” since NTTA didn’t cause it. But NTTA has already told The News that the new costs have to do with design and political issues; these are therefore new costs; and Dallas has to pay them according to a 1999 agreement that has never been shown to the voters.

So these are new costs.

An hour after we post our item, the NTTA comes out with this nutty statement saying that these new costs will “draw down” Dallas’ fully budgeted $84 million contribution. And The News interprets this to mean the new $1.54 million cost will not “push Dallas over the $84 million.”

Is it just me, or do you see a logic error here too? So I go home tonight and say, “Dear Wife and Helpmate, while it may be true that this new convertible you see on the driveway will draw down our bank account somewhat, it nevertheless will not push us above our bank account.”

We just can’t eat.

This is just The News and Leppert betting that the public is too stupid to see through their crap or just too lazy to care. One must hope they are all wrong. Sheesh. What liars. --Jim Schutze

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