Before I get going, I will admit that I, like most of my colleagues, or at least the ones who regularly blog here, think building the Trinity toll road is a mistake. Not going to dwell on that right now. What I want to focus on is what Vonciel Jones Hill — city councilwoman and chair of the Dallas City Council’s Transportation and Trinity River Corridor Committee — said a few days ago, and what she should have said, if she wants to stick with the idea that we need to come up with some “creative funding” to build the dang thing.
“We have built Central Expressway,” she said at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers briefing. “We have built 635. We have built the tollway. We have built 121. We have built 161. We have built the Chisholm Trail. I could go on, but my point is once we have started to build a roadway project, we have always been confronted with the challenge of funding it.”
And, she said, that money’s always been found — especially when that roadway project serves what she calls “the northern portion” of the city.
Alas, she insisted, the “parkway serves the people south of 30, the people coming out of southern Dallas and Pleasant Grove. And so now all of the sudden some folks want to say we can’t find the money? That is fallacious. If we found money for everything that goes north, I suggest we put our shoulders to the wheel and find the money to build the road that enhances the south.”
I get where she is coming from. She’s looking out for her constituents, the folks who have to drive from southern Dallas to jobs in “the northern portion” of the city. She’s demanding we build the road for the same reasons state Sen. Royce West has opposed tearing down I-345. (Not going to dwell on that either right now.)
But her argument is contradictory, and the opposite of the “economic justice” the Morning News editorial board is talking about. There are plenty of studies that show the negative impact of commuting on lower-income households. Here is one. Here is another.
She is asking for a road to be built that will cost those commuters even more. That will either negatively impact them further, or they won’t use at all.
On top of the expenses of owning and maintaining a vehicle — gas, insurance, repair, etc. — would go however much the toll for the new road would be, and since the cost to build the road is prohibitively expensive, so much so that no one seems to want to step up to even hint that they’d fund it, I can’t imagine the tolls will be cheap.
If Jones Hill wants to help southern Dallas (and I have no reason to think she doesn’t) and she has decided that the Trinity Parkway is the way to do so (which I guess she has), then the demand she made at that meeting didn’t go far enough.
She should have said:
“The parkway serves the people south of 30, the people coming out of southern Dallas and Pleasant Grove. And so now all of the sudden some folks want to say we can’t find the money? That is fallacious. If we found money for everything that goes north, I suggest we put our shoulders to the wheel and find the money to build the road that enhances the south. And here’s what else: it’s going to be free to use. You hear me? We need this road and we’re going to build it and it’s going to be free. My constituents unfairly bear the burden of commuting in this city, and we’re not going to force them to spend another penny doing so. If we’re not going to spend the money to bring business south of 30, we are damn sure going to make it easier for the people who work in the northern portion to get there.”
I would drop the mic at that point, but that’s just me.