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Mayor Rawlings Implies Trinity Toll Road Opponents Don’t Respect Democracy

Tod Robberson just posted about a 90-minute meeting the Morning News editorial board had today with Mayor Mike Rawlings and city council members Vonciel Jones-Hill and Rick Callahan about the Trinity Parkway. Rawlings said he takes umbrage when people characterize his position on the road as unclear, so he wanted to leave no doubt where he stands: “The more I study it, the firmer my feet get in the concrete about this being an important thing for the city of Dallas.”

Rawlings repeated the oft-used argument of proponents that the votes of Dallas have twice approved this project, never minding the fact that many of those voters thought what they were going to get involved things like sailboats majestically traveling across picturesque lakes and other campaign images of the Trinity park project that will likely never be.

“What voters voted on has not changed. … The bigger question there is really respect for the rule of law and respect for democracy,” Rawlings said.

So toll road proponents are both anarchists and racists, apparently.

Meanwhile Robberson decries “scare tactics” on both sides of the debate. He buys the claims of Rawlings and other supporters that the road will yield positive economic benefits to the people of southern Dallas:

If Rawlings, Hill and other proponents stick to the basic arguments about economic impact and the positive impact on the lives of working people in southern Dallas, they will win the day. If they go that other route, this debate is going to get really nasty and threatens to widen this city’s already sizable racial gap. My advice: Just don’t go there.

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Why Dallas Is Allowed to Ruin a Park With a Highway

In an Unfair Park post this morning explaining why it’s difficult for him to trust Trinity toll road proponents because of all the lies that have been told about the proposed highway and the adjacent park, Schutze recounts how our elected officials (most prominently former Mayor Tom Leppert and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison) created a special exemption just to make the project possible:

In 2010 when Republicans were filibustering President Obama’s defense spending bills — when defense bills were hard-fought battles in the congress, in other words — Leppert persuaded Hutchison to do some last-minute legislative sleight-of-hand with a defense spending bill that was about to finally get passed. She stuck two “riders” on that bill, provisions of little interest to anybody outside of Dallas, which received scant news coverage even here except in this newspaper.

Those riders said the Trinity River in Dallas was exempt from Section 4(f) of the act. A current U.S. Department of Transportation online publication explains that the FHWA is required by Section 4(f) to put “a thumb on the scale” in favor of park land wherever a highway touches a park, either by running along its edge or by cutting through its middle. Proponents can’t merely argue that a route that harms park land is the cheapest alternative, and, in fact, the FHWA must seriously consider any alternative that would spare the park.

That is the law everywhere in America but in Dallas and along the Trinity River, thanks to Hutchison and Leppert. At the time, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said the exemption was only for impacts to historic sites (as if that were a good thing). But we quoted people saying her statement was untrue, that the effect of the riders was so broad that they denuded the toll road project of all of the protective requirements of Section 4(f).

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A Toll Road To the Trinity Paved With Good Deceptions

So we have this little thing we make every month here at D Magazine that we refer to as the print edition, and we are currently in the midst of trying to put together February’s issue. As a result, I’m neck deep in a feature story about art, success, love, suffering, life, death, Dallas, Europe, markets, art worlds, champagne, smoked haddock, race cars, and superheroes. If I can pull it off, it might be a decent read. But you don’t care about that right now. What you care about — what everyone cares about, again — is the Trinity Bleeping Toll Road. But I mention this pesky little article because it has prevented me from giving you an adequate update on the road in the wake of last week’s remarkable revelation that those who are in support of the toll road are dirty, rotten liars. Well, they are not really liars. I’ll explain why.

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Trinity Commons Insists Smaller Toll Road Possible

Though it was reported last week that the federal government’s approval of the Trinity toll road project requires that it is built as a six-lane highway or not at all (without significant delays), the Trinity Commons Foundation is continuing to promote the idea that the design could still be reduced in scale.

Trinity Commons executive director Craig Holcomb repeated as much to the Morning News this afternoon:

“The environmental impact statement, because it is so expensive and takes so long — like, $30 million and 10 years — you ask for permission to do everything you want to do, but when it comes time you may say, ‘Well, I don’t have $1.5 billion, but I think I can pull together $700 million, and this is the part we’d like to do … It’s going to be a whole lot of work, but it will be worth it.”

City Councilman Philip Kingston, a toll road opponent, doesn’t like what he’s hearing from Holcomb:

“…that’s what he keeps saying. And it raises the specter that this is just an intentional deception.”

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Laura Miller Opposes Trinity Toll Road

The ranks of former Trinity Parkway proponents who have turned against the project are growing. Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller tells the Morning News that it shouldn’t be built:

In an email sent to to Dallas City Council member (and toll road opponent) Scott Griggs, and in a follow-up interview with The Dallas Morning News Friday morning, Miller says she wishes the city had built the low-speed, four-lane parkway envisioned by planners responsible for the Balanced Vision Plan adopted by the Dallas City Council in the fall of 2003. But that proposal has been parked by the city’s beloved Alternative 3C, a nearly nine-mile-long, six-lane-wide, $1.5-billion high-speed toll road along the east levee of the Trinity.

Says Miller in her letter to Griggs, “if the road cannot be built as originally envisioned by those of us who fought for a landscaped, low-impact, four-lane solution, the road should not be built at all. Over these past 11 years, the lakes have gotten much smaller, and the road has become much bigger. The result is not a good one.”

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Trinity Toll Road Town Hall Backs Pro-Roaders Against the Ropes

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people packed the auditorium at Rosemont Elementary in Oak Cliff yesterday evening for what was perhaps the most honest, open debate about the Trinity Toll Road ever to take place in this city.

The event, organized by State Representative Rafael Anchia, pitted the most outspoken representatives of the pro- and anti-toll road debate in a town hall-style discussion about the controversial plans to build a high-speed traffic artery through the Trinity River floodway. The crowd was overwhelmingly against the road and at times cheered for comments made by anti-road flag wavers Scott Griggs, Patrick Kennedy, and Bob Meckfessel and laughed –- and at one point hissed –- at remarks made by North Central Texas Council of Government transportation director Michael Morris. But the event was largely well-mannered, thanks in part to able moderating by the state rep, who reminded everyone at the outset that they were sitting in an elementary school.

“If we were parents, and children were acting up, we would frown on it,” Anchia said.

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So What’s the Mayor’s Trinity Toll Road Task Force Actually Going to Do?

After the mayor announced his Trinity Toll Road task force, I was left wondering about these smart urban guys he picked to rethink the design of the road. Sure, they’re all likely getting a nice pay check for their efforts, which may be motivation enough to stick their noses in this business. And they all have deep experience parachuting into controversy and knowing how to blast their way back out of town. But what are their marching orders? What – or how much – are they were expected to do in Dallas? Would they join a task force that was little more than a political charade or which couldn’t actually suggest any changes that were meaningful?

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Ron Kirk Joins Company That Wants to Bring High Speed Rail to Dallas

Former Dallas Mayor and former U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk is now a senior advisor to Texas Central Railway, the private company that hopes to bring high speed rail to Texas. The news comes via a statement Kirk posted on the company’s website:

I have seen just about all of the high-speed rail systems throughout Europe and Asia, and the competitive part of me feels that if the rest of the world can do this, why can’t we right here in the United States? This along with the practical attraction to having an alternative transportation mode between two of the fastest growing economic zones in the country sparked my interest and compelled me to join the Texas Central Railway team.

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What That Trinity Toll Road Meeting Was Really About

This morning, Mayor Mike Rawlings called a meeting at Babb Bros BBQ, in Trinity Groves, to make an announcement. It was a strange event. I’m still trying to figure out what really just happened.

Outside, three people dressed as turkeys handed out anti-toll-road flyers. They read, in part: “There’s no question that the Trinity toll road is the single biggest turkey in Dallas. That’s why we’re so excited about Mayor Rawlings’ steadfast support of it. With former proponents jumping ship left and right, it’s getting harder to find advocates for such an expensive, unnecessary, and counterproductive initiative. Thank you for standing up for REAL turkeys like the toll road, Mayor Rawlings!”

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City Lab Also Thinks Dallas Needs to Double Down on Better Bus Service

City Lab writer Eric Jaffe weighs in on the proposed high speed rail line to downtown Dallas and how a sudden influx of passengers may strain DART’s existing public transit capacity. If you’ve been following along with recent developments, there’s not too much new here, but it offers a nice sumation of where we stand. And Jaffe also agrees that the best way to deal with improving public transit in Dallas may be rethinking our bus system:

From the sound of it, Dallas could use a bus makeover similar to the one recently proposed for its high-speed rail partner, Houston. That plan would increase the frequency and reliability of buses for no new operating costs, with ridership coverage taking only a slight hit. The idea of running bus-rapid transit in dedicated lanes over long Texas corridors, rather than hyper-local, high-cost streetcars, could also boost the commuter experience.

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D Magazine Staffers on Councilman Philip Kingston’s Toll Road ‘Nice’ List

Rudy Bush has posted City Councilman Philip Kingston’s Trinity Toll Road “Naughty and Nice” list, identifying those he considers on the wrong (pro-) and right (anti-) side of the debate over building a highway between the levees.

Among those on the “nice” side of the ledger are our own Tim Rogers and contributors Eric Celeste and Patrick Kennedy. Plus, Wick Allison, who even charts a pull quote:

“I learned from the Trinity mistake. Maybe the biggest prejudice of all human beings is presentism. That is to say, what is has always been and will always be.”

Top of the naughty list: Mayor Mike Rawlings and former city manager Mary Suhm. So, yeah, no surprises. For whatever it’s worth, via the DMN:

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Ask John Neely Bryan Anything You Ever Were Too Lazy to Google

Greetings, friends, enemies, frenemies, trolls and troublemakers, hoodlums and saints, the blessed and the damned alike.

My name is John Neely Bryan. You may remember me from such things as having operated a ferry across the Trinity River ages before any of those new-fangled bridges were built, for being a log-cabin enthusiast, and also for having founded what is now the ninth-largest city in the United States of America. So, yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.

Though I have long since passed into the ether, I’ve kept a watchful eye on my beloved Dallas. The good folks at D Magazine, in their estimable wisdom, therefore knew I was best qualified to helm this new effort on their web log. In this space today and in the weeks to come, I shall address all manner of your questions and concerns. Need personal advice? Curious about some aspect of life in this city? Want a dispute adjudicated? Too lazy to Google something? Ask@dmagazine.com and ye shall receive. (Space and my patience permitting.)

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Poll: Why Don’t You Ride DART?

Last week over on StreetSmart, Bobby Abtahi wrote about the reasons he doesn’t ride DART regularly. Mostly he pointed to the infrequency of service — a 26-minute ride to the Apple Store from his house isn’t so bad, but the bus only swings by every hour. If he just happens to miss the bus on the way there and back, it’s potentially a three-hour trip.

Yesterday the Dallas City Council transportation committee voiced its support for a $983.4 million expansion of public transportation downtown, which would include another light-rail line and streetcar connections.

If you’re not already a regular rider, will moves like that win your business?

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Dallas Really Can Have a Great Public Transportation System

I thought about titling this post “Two car-centric cities that are kicking Dallas’ rear when it comes to figuring out public transportation,” or something like that, but then I remembered that Dallas is a “can do” city. We’re optimists. We like big projects, and then we like taking years to debate and tackle them. So rather than get all pouty and boo hoo about how other sunbelt cities are further down the line when it comes to figuring out how offer quality public transit in cities defined by sprawl, I thought I’d frame the comparisons as an opportunity. After all, there’s some positive buzz circulating on the topic now that the city council’s transportation committee gave DART a big thumbs up on its ramped-up plans to connect the Oak Cliff and McKinney Ave. streetcar lines through downtown as well as add the long overdue D2 second light rail alignment through the center of the city. Those projects are being acted on thanks to the promise of a private developer bringing in a high-speed rail line to downtown Dallas.

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Why Rural Texas Should Advocate for Diverting Interstates Around Downtown Dallas

Dallas’ economic bread and butter is the role it plays as a distribution hub. We’re at the center of major intersections of freight rail and transit corridors. We have a big airport. There’s Alliance; there should be (and maybe will be) an inland port in South Dallas. So where are these goods coming from and where are they going? The Brookings Institute can answer that one with this nifty interactive tool that “maps” the flow of freight in and around the United States. With $420 billion of imports and exports flowing through our region, Dallas ranks behind only New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston in terms of total trade activity.

There’s also a report accompanying the research that offers an interesting analysis. One thing we can see from this detailed look at the interconnected nature of the flow of goods between cities, the report argues, is that traffic congestion in one area of the network can drive up the cost of goods for the entire system. A clog in a node like Dallas can make it more expensive to buy any number of consumer products in Waco, Oklahoma City, or some town on the Texas panhandle. The report concludes that it is in rural areas’ best interests to solve traffic congestion in the inner cities:

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