BY JIM SCHUTZE AND STEPHEN YOUNG
Over a $125 plate of chicken salad with boiled egg at the Trinity Commons Foundation's annual luncheon, Dallas' betters -- and Jim Schutze -- were the first to hear just what exactly Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' Trinity toll road "Dream Team" had been up to over the past four months. What they were doing was dreaming about how to get rid of that highway between the levees.
The mayor, who said he hadn't yet seen the report, offered promises of a "big, beautiful park" served by a road that would help develop southern Dallas by making it more accessible. The "bench" for the road, a built-up earthen shelf capable of supporting a minimum six-lane, high-speed freeway, is a great example of how components of the plan for the Trinity River basin can work together, Rawlings said. It will allow 100,000 people a day to see a planned Trinity park and strengthen the river's levees.
Building the road, according to Rawlings, will help make Dallas a "city of choices that can serve an increasingly diverse population."
But, if the mayor really hadn't got an early peek at the Dream Team's proposal, then he must have choked on his chicken when he heard the Dream Team's chair Larry Beasley say a high-speed, limited-access highway was unneeded and would destroy the park.
All the reasons the mayor had just finished citing for building the toll road were countered by Beasley. This much was clear, Rawlings and Beasley were not on the same page.
Unless Beasley was just kidding.
Beasley called for a gentler, low-speed, four-lane road with access to parking and without off-ramps. Beasley suggested the parkway should just be shut down when the river floods -- that means no retaining walls running alongside -- and that the road could even be a migration stopover for monarch butterflies.
"Yes, this proposal has a road in the corridor," Beasley said. "But, I think you can see that this road has nothing to do with the limited-access highway that is now up for approval with senior governments ... You don't need an aggressive new highway in this park."
All it will take to not burden the potential park with an aggressive highway is courage, he said.
That, and maybe a huge amount of gullibility on the part of the growing number of people who don't like the road at all. Beasley didn't say that, but Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston sort of did. He live-tweeted the luncheon, and unsurprisingly, one of the longtime voices against the toll road was not buying what Beasley was saying.
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"This is an absolute retread of [2003's Balanced Vision Plan]. I've seen the end of this movie before," he said.
(For those of you who missed that particular film, here's a synopsis: In 1998, voters bought a vision of a Trinity park with lakes, a nice parkway. We got a big honkin' road. Objection! Mayor Laura Miller comes up with a Balanced Vision plan with parks, nice parkway. Council said yes. We got a big honkin' road. Objection! Vote in 2007 to stop big honkin' road fails on a ballot where no meant yes. Big honkin' road wins! Today, big objections. Dream Team. Nice parkway back. The film wraps, but like a bad sci-fi movie, the final screen says, The End?)
If the courage of those attending the luncheon is what's needed to stop a full-out freeway through the park, Kingston said, "We're screwed."
This week's toll-road fun continues Thursday at a specially called City Council meeting. Expect that session to be heavy on Dream Team fallout.