Dallas mayor backs Trinity River toll road

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on May 2, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 2 at 6:54 PM

DALLAS — The massive project to redevelop the Trinity River with a controversial toll road got a big boost on Wednesday.

The project would turn the river's floodway between the levees near downtown into a collection of sports fields, trails and nature centers, and has been in the works for more than a decade.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings finally got off the fence after declining to take a position on the toll road as candidate and as mayor — until now.

He's for it, but the toll road also has more opposition on the City Council now, too.

Since Dallas voters approved bond money in 1998 to plan for the Trinity toll road, there has been concern about risk to the levees, the parks in the floodway, and the cost of the ambitious project.

Rawlings sees solutions for them all.

"It is also safe, and we will have our recreational features such as lakes and trails," he said. "We will have our beauty and the financial returns to the City of Dallas are significant."

After repairs to the levees the past few years, Rawlings released a new statement from the Army Corps of Engineers that said the toll road is feasible — although there's no final decision yet.

"They were unbelievably cautious," Rawlings said in describing the Corps' role.

The total cost has now ballooned between $1 to $2 billion, with the North Texas Tollway Authority saying it doesn't have the money to cover it.

Rawlings says with state, federal and private money — and with political will — it can be done.

"The projects in Dallas seem to... once we get behind them... generate the sort of right financial support that we need," the mayor said.

But toll road opponents like City Council member Scott Griggs say the city should focus on renovating the Mixmaster to relieve traffic — a cheaper at a billion dollars.

"Why are we picking a solution that will cost us $1.4 billion and a solution that won't connect to 35 and provide that connectivity and won't provide the connectivity to I-30 where the problem is?" he asked.

Council member Angela Hunt — who led the unsuccessful 2007 referendum to stop the toll road — still isn't satisfied it won't hurt the levees.

"We are narrowing this flood channel, so I have real concerns about this," she said.

Now that the politicians have spoken, citizens can weigh in at a public hearing next Tuesday. The hearing, at the Dallas Convention Center, will feature an open house to look at exhibits from 5 to 7 p.m.. That will be followed by a presentation at 7 o'clock followed by public comments.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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