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What AIA Dallas Thought About the Trinity Project in 2001

photo by Scott Womack
photo by Scott Womack

Last Thursday, in advance of the last public hearing on the Trinity toll road, I rushed to post a document I’d been given. It was an appendix to a full policy report on the Trinity project issued in 2001 by the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects. None of this stuff was online. With only the undated, unsigned appendix — which said damning things about the proposed Trinity toll road — I asked the current AIA Dallas executive director, Jan Blackmon, if she could help me figure out the context in which the thing was written. Blackmon was able to track down an old hard copy of the full Trinity Policy document, which she scanned and sent to me. I’ve been meaning since then to put it online, because, as Blackmon pointed out to me, the appendix I posted was good for discussion, but the full document presents a complete picture of what her group was thinking back then, and, in her words, “it makes timeless recommendations that need to also be part of the discussion.”

If you don’t have the time or inclination to dive into the entire thing (it’s only 17 pages), here’s the group’s official stance on the road:

AIA recognizes the need for transportation improvements to allow Dallas to meet its mobility needs in the 21st century. However, AIA finds that the currently proposed high-speed, limited access tollway is inherently incompatible with the other goals of the Trinity River Corridor Project. AIA advocates a continuation of the search for a comprehensive system-wide “transportation vision” that 1) will relieve congestion in the “Canyon” and “Mismaster” and 2) will respect and enhance the recreational and economic development potential of the corridor.

Bear in mind that AIA made this recommendation 13 years ago. Since then, as Bob Meckfessel has said, the proposed road has only grown bigger and more intrusive. Any day now, AIA Dallas will issue an updated policy statement on the currently proposed road. Should be interesting.

UPDATE (2:36) — Meckfessel sent me an email in response to this post. With his permission:

Just read and enjoyed your most recent post. It will be interesting to see where things go from here.
One nit: believe it or not, the NTTA Alternate 3C of 2014 is actually smaller than the one AIA Dallas was looking at back in 2001. At that time, the tollway was EIGHT lanes for its entire length. It was truly a monster, and why AIA Dallas became so excited. During the Balanced Vision Plan process of 2003, the road width was reduced to 4 lanes as it went past downtown. This has now grown to 6 lanes in NTTA’s Alternative 3C.
So my comments at this time are comparing the 2014 3C to the 2003 BVP Parkway, not the 2001 monster. 3C still sucks, but not as bad as it was 13 years ago.
  • Wylie H Dallas

    Henry Tatum, DMN associate editor of the DMN editorial page, pens an editorial on the Trinity on February 18, 1998 (10 weeks before the bond referendum):

    Headline: “Will town lake remain a far-off dream?”

    “Dallas was a jumping town in the 1970s. Canadian developers had discovered this city and were rapidly reshaping the downtown skyline.

    “Mayor Robert Folsom showed that Dallas really was a”city without limits” by persuading City Council members to annex Renner to handle unbridled growth on the north side.

    “Even the Dallas Cowboys were cooperating, winning the Super Bowl a couple of times during that decade. We’re from Big D. My, oh, yes. We mean Big D – little a – double l – a – s. With everything going so right for Dallas, it was only natural the city would try to fulfill one of its longest-held dreams – creation of a lake on the Trinity River.

    “Dallas civic leaders had been talking about developing a downtown lake for decades. When the federal government let Dallas establish a greenbelt park between the Trinity River levees, the lake proposal soon evolved from pipe dream to planned project. […]

    “City Council members included a town lake proposition on the 1978 Dallas bond election.[…]

    “In May, voters will get a chance to consider a sweeping Trinity improvements proposition that will include creating one or more bodies of water in the river flood plains. […]

    “…the town lake idea, which has been on a back burner for 20 years, is returning at a pivotal time for Dallas. The city once again is economically healthy and growing.[…]

    “Meeting this new generation of downtown dwellers’ need for other amenities will be a tougher order. The expanded plans for the Arts District and the recent approval of a new sports arena will provide a large boost.

    “But none of those projects will have the impact of converting the unused Trinity flood plains into a recreational area with one or more lakes, playing fields and special events facilities.

    “That is why the City Council should feel under the gun to do this project right. […]

    “This could be the last opportunity for Dallas to make the Trinity River something more than an ugly ditch that has divided communities for all these years. It is vital that the City Council makes the right choice.

    “Henry Tatum is an associate editor of the Dallas Morning News editorial page.”

  • Wylie H Dallas

    Herb Booth, DMN editorial writer on the Trinity on March 24, 1998 (five weeks before the bond referendum):

    Headline: “Shall we gather at the riverwalks?”

    “First, the fight centered on which city would serve as home for the Texas Rangers baseball team. Then, the fight switched to which city would serve as home for the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars.[…]

    “Where’s the next battleground between Arlington and Dallas? The Olympics? The Wright Amendment?

    “Nope. The next big battle will be who gets a riverwalk first.

    “Recently, both the Arlington and Dallas city councils decided to ask voters to commit huge amounts of money to development of their respective waterways. In Arlington, the city will ask voters to approve $115 million for improvements along Johnson Creek. In Dallas, voters will be asked to approve $245 million in improvements for the Trinity River. […]

    “Arlington and Dallas are hoping that improvements to their respective waterways will yield big bucks in the future and create entertainment possibilities akin to San Antonio’s River Walk.

    “What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

    (Several paragraphs follow, containing glowing descriptions of New Orleans, San Antonio, Ft. Lauderdale, etc. Then comes the appeal to competitive spirit….)

    “So who will be first? […]

    “But in North Texas, who will be first to complete its riverwalk project – Arlington or Dallas?

    “Maybe which city is first will come down to which voters are willing to approve the public money portion of the respective Johnson Creek and Trinity River projects. […]

    “Will Arlington or Dallas become the first city in North Texas to boast a riverwalk?

    “Only time will tell.

    “Herb Booth is an editorial writer.”