"The Times Are A-Changin'": Hunt, Griggs Ask Pointed Questions About Trinity Toll Road

According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Trinity Parkway will cost around $1.8 billion, give or take a few million. That money's not there. But, hey, what's the rush: As we mentioned this morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' environmental impact statement on the Dallas Floodway is three, four years off. So, don't fret. There's time to find the money, even in the midst of a transportation funding "crisis."

That's the word used by Michael Morris, the head of transportation for the NCTCOG and a man whose connections to the Trinity Parkway project Schutze detailed in 2007. He spoke to the council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee moments ago and begged the city to keep the zombie alive between the levees. He offered a Top 10 list of reasons why -- everything from "unlock[ing] the downtown congestion nightmare" to the fact it's been part of the regional transportation plan since 1974 to the possibility that it'll create economic development in South Dallas and improve air quality.

This last bit did not amuse committee member Scott Griggs one damned bit: "We can't build our way out of air-quality issues," he told Morris. "It's like buying new clothes instead of going on a diet."

But Dallas needs a toll road between the levees, Morris reiterated. "We have an existing problem and it's not going to go away," he said, referring to people moving into the area. "The DFW region is leading the country as a place people are trying to get to to meet the needs of their family."

But who would fund it? Would would build it? Well, years ago it caught the eye of the NTTA, which now brings with it the FBI. Said Morris, the North Texas Tollway Authority is still the only entity that could finance the project: That's "the reason why we've proposed it as a toll road," he told Griggs -- because it would be paid for by "toll users."

Problem is, the NTTA won't commit to anything till the EIS is done in 2015. Which is fine by Hunt, who once again insisted on bringing in a "nationally renown transportation expert to take a look at this."

You could tell during the briefing: Hunt's still furious over then-Mayor Tom Leppert having insisted you couldn't straighten Dead Man's Curve without voting for the entire toll road. It was a lie, one of many uttered by the pro-toll road faction leading up to the 2007 referendum. She thanked Texas Department of Transportation officials and Morris for spending parkway funds on that -- should run around $150 million total, which is there -- but then reminded him, repeatedly: "The times are a-changin'."

Vonciel Jones Hill, chair of the committee, promised a full, separate Trinity Parkway briefing sooner than later. Stock up on popcorn now.

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