Trinity Toll Road Cold War Warms Up

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For a while, since April's special Dallas City Council meeting about the Trinity toll road, the two sides in the city's never-ending fight over what, exactly, to do with the Trinity River bottoms seemed to reach a cease-fire. Both sides were still suspicious, sure, but many people seemed ready to give the recommendations developed by the mayor's design "dream team" time to take shape. Some, as always, were more suspicious than others, but there was talk about making sure the proposed Trinity park was the focus of the development between the levees. The road was going to serve the park. Despite the fact that the road was still going to be built on an earthen shelf equipped to handle a full-size freeway, it was going to be a low-speed, meandering thing, too.

Most seemed willing to go with that plan until they were given reason not to. This week, City Council member Scott Griggs made a forceful case that that reason was there, hiding in plain sight.

Monday afternoon, Mark McDaniel, the assistant city manager overseeing the Trinity project, gave the council's transportation committee a report on the progress of the working group that's headed toward maybe, possibly, actually starting on the park. McDaniel stressed that incorporating the park design at the beginning of the process was important, but didn't explain why, as Brandon Formby pointed out in The Dallas Morning News over the weekend, the meanders in the road shown in the new materials don't seem very meandery or why nothing has been mentioned about the potential speed limit for the road. That's a sticking point, as became quickly apparent when Griggs took his latest opportunity to criticize what he has repeatedly called a boondoggle. 

"[Not having a proposed speed limit], and a few other issues, make me believe that [the report] could be a wolf in sheep's clothing, one that could devour the park," Griggs told McDaniel.

Griggs insisted that the eventual speed limit for the road would be dependent on the proposed parkway's lane widths and the amount it meanders if the speed limit isn't decided beforehand. He predicted a road with a speed limit of 65 or 70 mph, where drivers might travel 80 or 90. Griggs accused city staff of being the "last mouthpieces" for a high-speed tollway between the levees, something he said no one else wants.

Lee Kleinman, the committee's chairman, seemed to grow agitated as Griggs went on, stopping his colleague after three minutes and asking Griggs if he had a question.

After Griggs spoke, council member Sandy Greyson made it clear that if the road has a high speed limit, the whole process, everything that's gone into planning the park and toll road so far, would be right back where it started, an outcome that seems as appropriate as any.

The official charrette — a fancy French word for meeting that seems to get used a lot when talking about the Trinity project — to discuss the next phases of the project is going to happen in late January or early February. There will be many updates in the interim.

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