Trinity Parkway TR gets Dallas mayor Rawlings' support - breakthrough for a long stalled pike
2012-05-09: North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is renewing its development of the difficult Trinity Parkway, with the project having just gotten the strong support of the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings. Development and permitting of the project goes back about 14 years. But at last there now seems substantial support or acceptance by officials and the citizenry of tweaked versions of earlier plans that build some 9 miles 15km of 2x2 and 2x3 lane expressway at the eastern edge of the floodway levee of the Trinity River.
The draft EIS of 2005 was followed by the supplemental EIS in 2009 and now there limited scope supplements to the supplementals!
Bypass of Canyon/Mixmaster, relief for I-35E
The project goes around the south and west sides of the Dallas central business district along the eastern edge of the river floodway. In its southern segment it provides a new direct connection between I-45 and US175 and the southwest edge of the CBD. Then in its northern segment it provides relief to the busiest stretch of parallel I-35E, joining it near TX183, just south of the entrance to the Love Field city airport. In total the Tronity Parkway promises a far smoother connection between north and south of the CBD and a quiet bypass of all the lane changing and ramp choices of the present circumnavigation of the downtown.
Mayor Mike Rawlings, 56, a pro-business/pro-development Democrat last week was flanked by city councillors at a press conference in announcing his full support for a project he had previously avoided taking a clear position on. Elected last June he had said he needed to study the project more thoroughly.
Now he has thrown his weight behind Option 3C which would build just inside the eastern levee of the Trinity River floodway, the minimum cost, least disruptive of five schemes (including a No Build) still formally under consideration.
"We must deal with traffic..."
He was quoted: "We must deal with traffic in Dallas…It hurts growth in our neighborhoods and it hurts growth in our city… We believe building the parkway by the levees is the right thing to do for the City of Dallas.
Mayor Rawlings' prepared remarks are something of a model of how a local leader needs to address a complex and difficult project in a sensitive area. Extended excerpts follow:
"We can’t say and we shouldn’t say to drivers explicitly or implicitly 'Go somewhere else, drive around Dallas, go through another city.' It’s that attitude that loses us big opportunities each and every time. We need to say 'Invest in Dallas'; we need to say 'drive through our great city and stop a while'. Building this parkway is imperative...
"I don't really love roads, but..."
"I don’t really love roads; I don’t think many of us do. But if done right, they can be a major catalyst for growth. Just ask the pioneer who settled on the Trinity because he knew this would be a transportation hub. We must help Dallas, and especially southern Dallas, to grow by continuing to be that hub.
"We can (provide) thousands of jobs for Dallasites and Dallas based companies in building this project. We can build a beautiful Trinity River. We can do all of these things. But we must work together and have a sense of urgency. We must stop talking and get it done now."
9 miles, 11 interchanges, 2 mainline toll gantries, 2x2 and 2x3 lanes
The project has seven full and four partial interchanges and two mainline and other ramp AET gantries. It is designed to provide relief for the heavily congested so-called Canyon/Mixmaster complex of I-30/I-35E on the southern edge of the CBD and I-35E to the east and northwest of the CBD where heavy weaving movements and close spaced interchange ramps slow traffic as well as providing new access/egress points.
More than just a road...
But as the Mayor emphasized, it is much more than a tollroad. It will convert a boring utilitarian mowed floodway into a more beautiful setting of lakes and streams, while providing new trails and playing fields, and strengthened flood levies as well.
More from the prepared remarks:
"Each of us wants the Trinity River to be more than what it is. We want parks; we want lakes; and we want trails; we want to transform the river into a vital component that builds onto a vibrant core of our community rather than the barrier it has become. How we develop this corridor will be one of the most important things we as city leaders do.
"For the most part, I found that people are aligned behind those goals but there is a division over our transportation strategy. While running for mayor, I knew then as I know now that my decision on the parkway would be important but I personally wanted to take time to study and think on this issue….
"This has not been simple because I seem to agree with everyone and with all of their sentiments: I want more beauty and nature; I want less traffic; I want less concrete; I want cleaner air and less pollution caused by auto emissions. And I am emphatic that city tax dollars on transportations systems benefit the citizens of Dallas
Safety, beauty, cost
".. 3 big questions: 1. Safety – is the parkway safe to build? If it is not, it’s a showstopper and we must not proceed. 2. Beauty – will the parkway compromise the aesthetics that we all want for our corridor and will it delay the construction of the trails and lake? I am most excited about these possibilities than any road. And lastly, 3. Money – what is the city’s financial commitment? It is a big part of our decision and I want to make sure we are good stewards of tax dollars…
"I envision a vibrant city with a high quality of life consisting of arts, culture, recreational and beauty. Strong neighborhoods with strong schools with low crime and connected by bike lanes and walking paths. Contributing to the high quality of life is the ability to move easily between your home and work and then back in time for family dinner without the frustration of traffic gridlock….
"The Trinity River Corridor Project and the decisions we make about it must unify all parts of the city from Frankford Road in the north all the way to UNT-Dallas’s University Hills Blvd in the south… what we decide must be an enabler for growing (the depressed) Southern Dallas…
"I also want a city that grows. We must constantly be attracting new citizens and new businesses. We must be a city that is not isolated but rather is connected to the entire region. And (we) want to be competitive within our region… I want a city that you can walk to the store but at the same time major logistics companies can flow their goods through our city limits…
Let's face facts
"When it comes to transportation, the one thing we must do is be intellectually honest with each other about the problems we face. We may not always agree on the solutions but hopefully we all see our problems. And fellow citizens we have a big problem.
"Our traffic on I-35 south of downtown is bad and it’s getting worse. The north part of I-35 is bad also.
"I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about this issue and no one disputes the fact that we must deal with this traffic issue. It’s hurting us individually and it’s hurting our chances to grow our city and our neighborhoods…
"(O)n a weekday 275,000 vehicles use the northern segment of I-35, about 1/4 of a million use the canyon segment of I-30 and 200,000 use the southern portion of I-35, all converging on our city center. In twenty years, it is seen to easily grow by 30-40% meaning problems will continue to mount…
"Over 40% of the vehicles just mentioned are Dallas taxpayers and citizens, and they are not happy. The traffic congestion makes them late to a business meeting, a flight at Love Field or to their children’s soccer games. And they want us to do something about it…
"We must do something now or we will become an afterthought. We will be less competitive within our region if goods cannot flow thru our city; we will choke economic development because businesses will not establish in areas without easy access; we will choke off our neighborhoods and workforce in our most important growth area: Southern Dallas….
Alt 3C is "right for Dallas"
"Are we going to be safe, beautiful and cost efficient? After considering those three questions, I believe building the parkway inside the levees, alternative 3C, is the right thing for the future of Dallas….
"First, it is safe. It will not marginalize the flood protection that our levees provide. If we weren’t going to be safe, this would have been a nonstarter for me. And after speaking with… the US Army Corps (they) told me that (they) brought in additional teams over the last year and studied our issue closely… their final report, coming out at the end of next month, will show that we can proceed with confidence (on) the safety issues in building this road…
"(On) the second issue: the beauty of the river, the lake and our trails. I have asked the city manager to begin as soon as possible to accelerate the plan on the lake and trails near downtown…
"(One) critical statement of the parkway is 'I don’t want to see this toll road when I’m down in the park' and I agree with you: I don’t either. I have been assured that because of the walls built around the parkway in the central corridor of the Trinity floodway, you will not see this road from the downtown park and anything short of that is unacceptable to me….
Users to pay
"This project will be funded primarily from non-city funding sources: users of the road as well as state and federal transportation dollars…
"Plan 3C is estimated to cost $1.4 billion and can be completed by 3 years after start of construction. With plan 3C, because we are building on available land, we will essentially avoid the complicated legally embroiled eminent domain process that will invariably come with the Irving/Riverfront alternatives that displace hundreds of businesses… Plan 3C is the most cost effective choice.
Take 25% of traffic from "the Canyon"
"If we build this parkway traffic issues begin to be mitigated. This parkway will carry an average 25% of the traffic that snarls our canyon. The benefit of time and cleaner air is very clear…
"We must have the attitude that embraces growth. We can’t say and we shouldn’t say to drivers explicitly or implicitly 'Go somewhere else, drive around Dallas, go through another city.' It’s that attitude that loses us big opportunities each and every time. We need to say 'Invest in Dallas;' we need to say 'drive through our great city and stop a while'.
"Building this parkway is imperative.
"…To those that oppose this idea, I respect your beliefs, but I would ask you to use your energy to hold us and our city leaders accountable to the high standards that we are setting for this project. Help us continue to improve our plans and never let us back down on our promises."