Since it seems I am going to be posting a lot about the Trinity River Corridor project, I thought I would lay out my basic position with regards to the highway portion of the project. I am agin’ it (that’s “against” for any non-redneck readers out there in cyberland that I imagine are salivating for my next post). And here’s why, in order of importance:
1. Building an elevated multi-lane highway inside the levees makes flooding worse. This highway will have to be built tall enough and with wall support to survive a 100-year flood. It’s the fat man in the bathtub analogy. The only way to keep it from making flooding worse is to dig the ditch deeper and/or build the levees higher. This project was supposed to have a flood-control component; why would we do something that makes flooding worse near downtown? Furthermore, as Councilwoman Angela Hunt has discovered, the Corps of Engineers has never put their seal of approval on a project like this before. There are no other projects like this in the United States. How comfortable are we in doing this unprecedented project – a reliever highway inside the banks of the river which carries away our floodwater? If that is not enough, the project is being designed using pre-Katrina standards for our levees. As Wayne and Garth would say, “exsqueeze me?” Did nobody notice what happened to all those people displaced from New Orleans? Some of them are still here in Dallas, so complete was the devastation. So to reiterate point the first, this project is pretty dumb.
2. A highway is a crummy thing to have in the middle of your signature park. As this project progressed and the highway has moved further inside the levees, it is projected to eat up 1/3 of the park that was sold to the voters. Look, I don’t have to rely on the argument that there was a bait and switch back in '98. I don’t care. In my mind you can’t have a signature park with lakes, sailboats, hike and bike trails, and nature preserves if there is a damn highway in the middle of it. Duh. So whether we voted for a toll road in 1998 is not at issue; the fact that it’s not too late to get the road out of the park is the issue. Point the second.
3. Who is this reliever route for anyway? I don’t know anyone clamoring for it, and most of the people (regular people – not the big money types who are shilling for this thing) who speak in support of it don’t live in Dallas. Guess what, it’s not for Dallasites! It’s for people passing through or people who commute into downtown from the ‘burbs. How long do you think it will be before traffic on our “reliever route” slows to a crawl? And as some good souls have pointed out, more roads do not encourage the use of mass transit. We should be so lucky as to be sinking the $1B needed (so far) for this project into mass transit, of which we desperately need more to even hope to meet EPA air quality standards. Dallas has already come a long way in this regard. We have mass transit success with DART’s light rail and related development that other parts of the state envy, even as they dismiss us for our outsize proportion of Porsches and McMansions. Point the third.
Dallas is changing folks. Can you tell? Almost 90,000 people signed those petitions to get this highway on the ballot so we can get it out of our signature park and improve flood control downtown. That’s more people than voted for our new mayor. That’s more people than even voted in 1998 on the Trinity bond election that started all this. Only 38,000 people voted in favor back then (51%). This is democracy and people making their voice heard. This is real grass roots standing up for what is right against all the moneyed interest telling us what we should think. I need a bullhorn right about now. I feel like John Edwards on the stump - how's my hair?
You may have noticed that I didn’t split hairs about this being a toll road versus a free road. That’s because I don’t want any road – not inside the levees. I’ll probably never drive on it. Because I already live here and my quality of life will not be improved by it. A signature park with all the amenities in the pretty water color paintings – that is a quality of life improvement. OK, I’m done preachin’. I was raised Baptist and I learned that after three points most of the congregation is asleep and ready to go to Luby’s. So “bless your hearts” for reading; now go load up a Luann platter and save me a square of fried cod and some mac n’ cheese.