Yesterday in the comments section to this post, Wick and Councilwoman Angela Hunt got into it over the Trinity (and I’m not talking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Then, after they got into it, at about 2:30 this morning, they really got into it. So let’s get it all up in its own post, shall we?
HUNT (3:53pm) — Wick, you say, “without FHA funding we won’t have the Trinity project.” Aside from the toll road, what parts of the Trinity project do you think the FHA is funding? You also state, “We have to have the parkway if we expect to get FHA funding.” FHA funding for what exactly?
ALLISON (6:15pm) — As you well know, in 1998 voters approved $118 million (out of $246 million)in bonds for the parkway to be matched by $250 million in federal dollars (along with some $650 million in federal money for other items in the Trinity project). The bond approval and the federal matching funds were predicated on a comprehensive design to include flood ways, levee improvements,waterways, open space, and a parkway. You have made your opposition to the placement of the parkway within the levees well known. The evidence, when it all comes in, may yet prove you right. But to reject these dollars altogether would be to renege on the 1998 vote and unravel the entire project.
HUNT (2:04am) — The notion that the Trinity Toll Road either secures funds for the Trinity River Corridor Project or that its demise will eliminate or jeopardize funding for other aspects of the plan, is factually incorrect. While this premise has been central to the strategy used by toll road advocates (”Don’t send a billion dollars down the river…”), you do a disservice to your readers and this project by continuing to espouse untruths that are belied by the facts.
You: “In 1998 voters approved $118 million … in bonds for the parkway to be matched by $250 million in federal dollars….”
Fact: In 1998 voters approved $118 million in Trinity bond funds for transportation projects. Of that, $84 million has been allocated to the Trinity Toll Road. There was and is no federal commitment to fund the Trinity Toll Road. There is no Congressional legislation or departmental agreements to that effect, and the FHWA has not allocated any funding to this toll road.
The Trinity Toll Road is a joint project between the City, the NTTA, and TXDOT. Currently, the funding for the toll road is: $84 million from the City of Dallas, $150 – $200 million in state gas tax dollars, and some unspecified amount from the NTTA in the range of $400 to $500 million. At an estimated cost of $1.8 billion, there is currently a $1 billion funding gap.
You: “[The city will receive] $650 million in federal money for other items in the Trinity project….”
Fact: Perhaps these are the federal funds you fear the city will lose if we do not move forward with the toll road? Rest assured, none of this federal funding is dependent on the toll road. The city has already received $183.6 million in federal funding for various projects, along with a 2007 Congressional authorization for $459 million for the Dallas Floodway Project.
The $183,575,736 in federal funding for the Trinity River Corridor Project breaks down as follows: $71,258,508 for the Dallas Floodway Extension Project, $8,324,205 for the Upper Trinity River Feasibility Study, $577,200 for the Bureau of Reclamation Study, $8,000,000 for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (Woodall Rogers), $81,616,280 for the Margaret McDermott Bridge (I-30), and $13,799,543 for the I-35 Bridge.
In 2007, Congress passed a Water Resources Development Act which included a $459 million authorization for the Dallas Floodway Project. This was only an authorization, and funding will have to be secured in future Energy and Water Appropriations. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, has stated unequivocally that this funding is in no way related to or dependent upon the Trinity Toll Road.
You: “…federal matching funds were predicated on a comprehensive design to include flood ways, levee improvements, waterways, open space, and a parkway.”
Fact: The only “federal matching funds” in this project involve the Corps’ Dallas Floodway Extension Project. City bond money and private contributions are paying for the Trinity Park.
The only part of the project that is in any way intertwined with the toll road is the lakes’ excavation. Here’s how that works, in theory: The NTTA has agreed to excavate the city’s lakes, and will use that dirt for the base of the toll road. The Corps will also use the excavated material to raise the levees, and that will serve as the city’s funding portion of the Dallas Floodway Extension Project. This is all hypothetical because it is unknown whether the excavated dirt will be suitable for use in either the toll road base or the levee raise. If the toll road were not built within the levees, the city would have to find funding to excavate the lakes, either by reallocating current TRCP bond funds, seeking additional bond funds from voters, or obtaining private funding. The most recent estimate for lake excavation is roughly $30 million.
Perhaps when you talk of federally-funded projects, you are actually referring to Project Pegasus – TxDOT’s reconstruction and realignment of the Mixmaster, Lower Stemmons, and the Canyon intended to relieve traffic congestion in Downtown Dallas. TxDOT has stated that they are moving forward with Project Pegasus with or without the toll road. (Interestingly, at a cost of $1.463 billion, Project Pegasus is now less expensive than the Trinity Toll Road.)
These facts contradict your statements that the city risks “unravel[ing] the entire project” by eliminating the toll road from the levees or (as you stated in 2007) that “The entire Trinity project is premised on the federal money the parkway attracts.”
I do not presume that you are part of a grand conspiracy to ensure the construction of the Trinity Toll Road. But your profound ignorance about this project, combined with your lack of hesitation to opine about its financing with unwavering authority, make you complicit with those who knowingly mislead the public. Because your voice carries considerable weight in our city, it is imperative that the information you provide is accurate and your opinions based in fact.
ALLISON (4:47am) — You are retailing once again the same arguments you wholesaled in 2007. And you are doing so, once again, disingenuously. To say, for example, that, “There was and is no federal commitment to fund the Trinity Toll Road” is a fact that hides the truth. The FHWA did not just complete a 4,000 page environmental report on the parkway because it had nothing better to do. There can be no commitment of money until the FHWA knows how much money needs to be committed. That depends on the final route, which has not yet been selected.
As for Project Pegasus, it is again true that it can proceed without the reliever route. It is a separate project, separately funded. But once again, you are being disingenuous. Since 1998, the parkway reliever route has been a part of the planning for Pegasus, just as DART has been for the light rail portion, also separately funded. For more information on how these projects are intertwined, I direct you to the Project Pegasus website.
Your modus operandi is to pull at every thread in your lawyerly way until one comes loose. My concern is that then the entire project unravels, and it is precisely the lake escavation to which I am referring. That was my position in 2007 when I opposed your referendum.
The original 1998 plan, as you say, included lake excavation in the costs of the parkway construction. I have no reason to doubt your quote of a $30-million price tag for that, although I had not heard that figure. In the post that launched this discussion I stated my concern that the cost escalations due to meeting the Corps’ objections will skyrocket. Once the FHWA and the Corps have completed their engineering studies and negotiated their final settlement of the outstanding issues, the FHWA will have to determine if the cost of the inside-the-levee option is worth it. You and I will have to wait on that. However, it is unlikely, considering how tied the reliever route is to the Pegasus Project that the FHWA will abandon it altogether. I hope not. When talking about billions, it is easy in your disingenuous way to make the $30 million cost of lake escavation sound like a rounding error. But if there is no reliever road, that money will have to paid by Dallas, and Dallas does not have the money. Could you tell us now whether you would vote to raise taxes to pay it? That thread, once pulled, can indeed unravel the whole project.
But you are not against a reliever road, or at least you weren’t in 2007. Is that correct? In fact, I recall that your campaign proposed Industrial as an alternative route. With the costs of the inside-the-levee option skyrocketing, either it or the original notion of two roads, one on either side of the river, seem to be the only options. Would you object to either of those? Perhaps in my profound ignorance I am confused as to where you stand. You do not make my education any easier when you continue to issue statements intentionally designed to obscure rather than elucidate the facts.