Top of Mind: O Trinity, Where Art Thou?

More is going on with the Trinity River Project than you might think.

illustration by Douglas Jones

A little more than a year ago, Dallas citizens voted to keep the Trinity Parkway.

But the vote for the toll-road project was also a referendum on citizens’ confidence about the entire $2 billion Trinity River Project—the bridges, the lakes, the park, the whole lot. It was also a referendum on the city of Dallas’ ability as an organization to complete the largest public-works project in its history, and it signaled whether most believed, after 10 years of waiting, the project would ever really get off the ground. 

A year later, the biggest news story about the project continues to surround the costs, complications, and controversy over the toll road and whether construction will begin by 2010 in order to be complete by 2013. The entire project is to be finished by 2014. Needless to say, there’s still skepticism.

I’m a supporter of the Trinity River Project and have great faith it will happen. I believe most Dallasites, whether they share my optimism or not, are waiting for evidence that dirt is flying before giving in to any sense of hopefulness. But if seeing is believing, a closer look reveals some real progress this year.

First, if seeing dirt move is your definition of progress, look no further than for a webcam view of construction on the first of the three bridges that will span the Trinity. Dirt is indeed moving and concrete is already coming out of the ground on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which will extend Woodall Rodgers Freeway across the river to Singleton Avenue. 

We’ve heard a lot about the lakes of the Trinity, more than 250 acres planned in total, not to mention the 2,200 acres of urban parkland near downtown. The project will total 10,000 acres, making the Trinity the largest urban park in the country—10 times larger than New York’s Central Park. But before work on any of the lakes, water gardens, or the meandering river could begin, the city and the Army Corp of Engineers (which is charged with U.S. flood-control projects) had to begin construction on a chain of wetlands. The work on the first chain of wetlands started some five years ago and continues.

The lynchpin of progress for the year, though, comes from the October opening of the Trinity River Audubon Center. The $37 million, 21,000-square-foot facility makes the whole deal seem real. It’s the project’s first actual building—eight minutes from downtown, situated on 120 acres in the Great Trinity Forest. Did you know Dallas is home to 6,000 acres of hardwood forest? Most don’t. Fortunately, the forest is already part of the deal—no construction required. So, the Audubon Center will provide a gateway to the forest and serve as a tourist attraction, a recreation area, and a teaching facility for nature, birds, and science.

“The Trinity River Corridor Project is gaining momentum,” says Dallas City Councilmember Dave Neumann, who chairs the City Council’s Trinity River Project Committee. It “embodies a long-term conversion of our backyard becoming our front yard.  It’s not My Trinity or Your Trinity, but Dallas’ Trinity.”

The progress couldn’t have come soon enough. Our collective faith in the project depends on seeing it. Now, let’s hope that 2009 has more proof in store—more dirt, more concrete, more steel.


by Crayton Webb

Webb is director of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Mary Kay Inc. Previously, he was chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and an investigative reporter for CBS 11.

The great Trinity flood of 1908.

photography courtesy of Dallas Municipal Archives


It’s been more than 100 years since the Great Trinity Flood of 1908.

Does that mean we’re due for another cataclysm soon?

Not more than any other year, says Rebecca Dugger, director of the Trinity River Corridor Project for the city of Dallas.

“There’s a 1 percent chance of it occurring in a given year,” Dugger says, “or there’s a 99 percent chance of it not occurring each year.”

The ’08 100-year flood peaked at more than 52.6 feet and killed five people and left about 4,000 people homeless, according to Darwin Payne’s local history, Big D.

But UT Dallas geoscience prof Robert J. Stern says that flooding the Trinity basin is a lot more complicated today because of all the reservoirs that have been built upstream.

“Obviously if the reservoirs are low and a 1908 rainstorm hits, then no problem, it’s a double win: no flood and we fill the reservoirs,” he tells D CEO.

“On the other hand, if the reservoirs are full and a 1908 rainstorm hits, then it would be as if there were no dams,” Stern says. “Other considerations are the much greater proportion of impervious surfaces (increased rate of runoff, increasing chance of flooding) and the presence of levees (decreases flooding where these are, increases flooding chances downstream).”


by Dave Moore