This morning I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast discussion hosted by Urban Land Institute North Texas. After a keynote from the ULI’s Rachel MacCleery about the group’s most recent report on infrastructure and how it shapes competitive cities, Robert Wilonsky moderated a panel populated by MacCleery, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Rousakis, and Alice Murray, who is the president of the Dallas Citizens Council. At the risk of giving you the false impression that the morning was dull and nothing of note happened until the confab was nearly over and Councilwoman Sandy Greyson asked a question about the Trinity tollroad, I will say that the room did perk up a bit when Greyson raised her hand.
Greyson said, “I’d like the panel to say a few words about the Trinity toll road, which seems like a really dumb idea to me.” Words to that effect. I didn’t have a recorder rolling.
Kennedy said that he assumes the road is dead. There’s no money to pay for it, and toll roads are failing to generate projected revenue all across the country. He spoke for about 15 seconds.
Then Murray launched into a much longer explanation of how she sees things. She said that the bottom line is we need the Trinity toll road to relieve traffic on I-45 and I-35 and other roads whose capacity has recently been increased. No way around it. She said it was less than ideal to put the toll road between the levees, but that was the only place it could go. She said the road is only 30 percent designed. We’re waiting on final approval from the feds later this year, and then we can get to work on designing the other 70 percent, a process we can all participate in.
Murray finished by saying, “I think it is going to happen.” Meaning the roll road. She said this while scrunching up her face in a comical way, as if to communicate that she knew something we didn’t.
Greyson, from her seat in the audience, said she hoped Murray was wrong.
The two women also went back and forth on another detail: Greyson claimed that when Alex Krieger and Bill Eager were brought to town to help craft the Balanced Vision Plan, they weren’t asked where the road should go; they were asked how best to put it between the levees. Murray said that was “absolutely not true.”
That was pretty much the highlight. It all happened in about the last eight minutes of the breakfast. Afterward, I told Wilonsky that things really picked up when they got around to talking Trinity. He agreed and said he was asked not to focus too much on that one topic. Understandable from the ULI’s standpoint. But that seemed to be the one topic everyone was most interested in.