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Who Is In Charge of the Trinity River Project?

Over the weekend, Mark Lamster filed an illuminating report from Houston, comparing that city’s successful clean-up of Buffalo Bayou with our own ill-fated attempts to reclaim the Trinity. The whole thing is worth reading, but towards the end, Lamster raises an important question:

Who, exactly, is in charge of the Trinity Corridor project? There is no ready answer.

Indeed, as I mention towards the end of this piece from last week, one of the frustrating aspects of the Trinity River Project is that the plan’s so-called advocates, like The Trinity Trust, are mum when it comes to things like the proposed Trinity Toll Road, which is poised to ruin some of the more positive, park-friendly amenities they have already brought to the Trinity greenbelt. Lamster attributes this to a general lack of accountability with regards to a civic project that has way too many agencies and organizations with their hands in the pie. And what are the results?

While the Trinity River Audubon Center is a civic jewel, this process has also produced a pedestrian bridge that leads to a no-man’s land on its downtown side; a whitewater rapids that doesn’t work properly; a horse park that provides no value to the vast majority of Dallasites; and plans for lakes and fields and trails that languish as the city mulls an ill-conceived toll road that would cut those amenities off from the very citizens they are intended to serve.

In Houston, they have a park.

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Let the Rural Opposition to the Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail Project Begin

You knew it was only a matter of time before someone from out in the hinterlands of Texas started to make a stink about the proposed high-speed rail link between Houston and Dallas, which, up until now, was moving along surprisingly smoothly. Well, now Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe has introduced House Bill 1889 which would require that the high speed rail project be approved by every city and county along the route in order to move forward. And you know the chances of that: zilch. So the Texas Central Railway will focus on trying to defeat the bill.

Curiously, the proposed route of the high-speed rail line does not go through Metcalf’s district, not that the representative cares. He likes roads and hates cities, which is enough to hate high-speed rail:

“We need more roads for citizens to travel to ease our existing roadways,” Metcalf said. “We do not need a high speed railway in Texas that will only benefit a few, while at the same time disturbing thousands of citizens within its path.”

Sigh. Democracy can be so tedious.

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Jill Jordan Explains the Highway Spaghetti Planned for the Continental Pedestrian Bridge

This morning Rudy Bush tweeted that there was an interesting Trinity toll road conversation going on during the open microphone section of the Dallas City Council meeting, so I decided to head on over to the city’s handy online video section and check it out. A trio of speakers, including a property owner in the Design District, talked about the value of that neighborhood’s proximity to the Trinity River park and how the proposed toll road could negatively affect the potential for the Design District to become even more of a premier neighborhood and destination.

The highlight of the open microphone session came at the tail end. During his remarks, the property owner expressed concern about the contradictions apparent in multiple Trinity toll road renderings produced by different agencies, like the NTTA and TxDOT, which show exit ramps from the proposed road swamping the Continental Pedestrian Bridge and even depicting cars driving on the pedestrian bridge. The owner asked for some clarification, and when he was finished, council member Sandy Greyson called Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan to the microphone to sort out the confusion.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Is Love Field Called Love Field?

Question: Where does “Love” in Love Field come from? — George L.

Sir, I am tremendously pleased to have received your query, as it affords the opportunity to hold forth upon another of the great injustices and absurdities of Dallas history.

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How a Subway Could Transform Downtown Dallas

A downtown Dallas brimming with street life, and under-street life, with shops and churches and schools, and much more affordable rents? Jim Schutze waxes on about how a subway line built beneath Elm Street could help make this fantasy a reality, leaning heavily on the vision of real estate developer John Tatum. But we’ve got choices ahead:

The tragedy Tatum sees about to unfold downtown is that Dallas is about to make two decisions — the second downtown DART rail alignment and the Trinity River toll road — that will seriously cripple if not kill the chances for achieving Fantasy Downtown. A decision to build the toll road would waste a huge sum of money, $1 billion to $2 billion, that the city should spend on rail instead. With that kind of money to spend on itself, Dallas could achieve some all-important independence of suburban DART board members who have always fought any concentration of resources downtown.

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Dallas’ Evolving Tech Community Offers Model for Successful Regional Growth

This article in GeekWire has been circulating on the interwebs. It talks about the strides made by Dallas’ startup community in recent years to build the sense of identity and community that is necessary in any entrepreneurial tech scene hoping to thrive on sharing, synergy, co-mingling, and all that other mumbo jumbo stuff they blabber on about in Austin every March.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Dallas tech, so I can’t attest to how accurate this portrayal is (it appears in GeekWire ahead of a GeekWire-sponsored Startup Week in Dallas next Month), however it does ring true with D CEO’s latest cover story. I bring it up because there is much in GeekWire’s portrayal of Dallas’ tech world that suggests a model for how we should be thinking about city-building and regional growth.

First off, while DFW has never been a stranger to tech success stories, from Texas Instruments to Mark Cuban, what the area has lacked is a sense of cohesion and identity. Why? In part, sprawl:

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Mike Rawlings’ Kangaroo COG: Who Deserves Blame for the Wasteful Toll Road Planning Charade?

From the beginning, we knew the entire thing was a set-up, orchestrated to produce precisely this conclusion. We wrote that it was all an attempt to allow Rawlings a way to distance himself politically from the Toll Road ahead of the May election (From Formby’s story: “I believe the leaders of the city will make that appropriate decision [to expand the road to six-lanes] at that point,” [Rawlings] said. “I will not be one of them.”) This wasn’t the “dream team.” It was the urban planning equivalent of a kangaroo court. The dream team was actually the Kangaroo COG.

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A Little History for the Dallas Citizens Council and Alice Murray

Alice Murray, president of the Dallas Citizens Council, recently wrote a piece in support of the Trinity toll road. Peter did a pretty thorough job destroying her weak arguments. One point that Murray tried to make was this: DFW Airport, DART, Victory Park, and Klyde Warren Park were all big public improvement projects that wise leaders supported and naysayers fought. Never mind that DART is one of the worst performing public transit systems in the country and Victory Park was a huge financial failure. Murray’s point is that wise leaders, like the sort who belong to the Dallas Citizens Council, will carry the day.

This got artist, author, environmentalist, and sometime D Magazine contributor Laray Polk thinking. Because she remembers that in the early 1970s, the Dallas Citizens Council supported turning the Trinity River into a navigable canal that would bring ships from the Gulf to the port of Dallas. Oh, and James Hoffa’s people were part of the deal. Laray reminds us:

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Trinity Toll Road Backers Launch Misinformation Campaign

This morning the Dallas Business Journal ran a commentary piece by Alice Murray, President of the Dallas Citizens Council, and I couldn’t help but wonder that if this had been 2006, the article would have appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Regardless, in the DBJ, Murray argues that we should build the Trinity Toll Road. Why? Well, because Dallas:

Quick: What do DFW Airport, DART, Victory Park and Klyde Warren Park have in common?

Give up?

Answer: All began as major public improvement projects that Dallas leaders were wise enough to support, and all have paid off big time in providing massive economic, social and cultural benefits to Dallas and the surrounding region.

And here’s another thing that they all have in common: All had vocal opponents who predicted all sorts of doom and gloom if these projects went forward.

Okay, so, you get that? Here we go.

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Bullet Train Developer Partners With Matthews Southwest, Names Potential Terminal Sites

I’ve taken most of the Dallas-Houston bullet train talk with a grain of salt and maybe a dash of pepper, waiting for it to sound less like talk and more like reality. This Brandon Formby piece detailing the latest bullet-train happenings sounds more like reality.

• Mainly, Texas Central Railway partnering with Jack Matthews and Matthews Southwest (they’ve formed a new concern, Texas Central Partners) is great news — if you want the train to happen — because Matthews is a dude who gets things done.

• Both locations they’ve identified for the potential terminal are perfect for the future of the city. One is closer to Matthews’ South Side on Lamar complex. The other straddles I-30. Both encourage southern growth. The latter would better connect downtown to South Dallas.

• When Matthews was trying to land the convention center hotel deal — which he ultimately did — he had a different plan for what he would do. The hotel would have been on the opposite side from where it is now, almost reorienting downtown south. And the hotel he had designed was, and this is a technical term, 1000-percent more awesome than what the Omni became. So, I think he could do great things with a terminal building.

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Leading Off (2/6/15)

Don’t Drive Interstate 35E to Denton This Weekend. At least not after 8 p.m. Saturday night, or all-day Sunday. The highway’s main lanes will be shut down in Corinth to take out a bridge as part of a major expansion project.

‘Frontier Disney’ Fraud Trial Starts Monday. Thomas W. Lucas Jr. is accused by federal authorities of having told investors he had inside information about plans the Walt Disney company had to build a theme park and resort near Celina. He allegedly tricked them into spending millions to buy land near the purported site, from which he pocketed sales commissions. Though it’s hard to imagine investing even $5 with this guy.

The Beetles Invade D/FW Airport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency there announced Thursday that they’ve intercepted destructive Khapra beetles in passengers’ luggage five times in recent months and have stopped more than 70 of the creatures from entering the homeland since 2013. The insect can reportedly destroy supplies of grain, which makes me think they’re like a less cuddly version of tribbles. Lock up the quadrotriticale. (That joke would kill at Dallas Comic Con Fan Days this weekend.)

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