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Dallas City Council Kills The Trinity Parkway Once And For All

Although the toll road is near death, the Dallas City Council's still interested in building the park between the Ron Kirk and Margaret McDermott bridges.

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday morning voted 13-2 to pull support for a controversial toll road along the Trinity River.

Plans had been in the works for years for the Trinity Parkway, but the project had long generated criticism.

Following Wednesday's vote, several members in the City Hall audience applauded.

Council member Philip Kingston called the vote a "triumph for the city of Dallas."

“I’m excited about today. Today’s a wonderful day," Kingston said during the meeting. "It’s extremely heartening to work with a council like this one that is open to changing its mind and listening to the people.”

A park has been in the works for years near the Trinity River, but it's the toll road that attracted many opponents.

In 2014, a symbolic funeral

On a mild summer day three years ago, scores of toll road opponents carried an empty wooden casket through the Bishop Arts District. They had gathered for a symbolic funeral for the Trinity Parkway, but it was not a somber occasion. 

There were eulogies for the project and people signed large sympathy cards. Angela Hunt was there. She's a former Dallas City Council member who for years opposed the toll road. 

In 2014, it was a little early for a funeral - the project wasn't dead - but Hunt said it needed to be.

“This toll road is unnecessary,” Hunt said at the time. “It's unnecessary for transportation needs. It's unnecessary for the park. And I think it's time for us to move forward as a city to accept the fact that this is a bad project, bad use of taxpayer dollars, and we need to move on.”

Dallas voters approved the project twice -- in a 1998 bond election and a 2007 referendum.

But critics said federal officials approved a high-speed road different from what voters signed off on. Hunt thought the project had grown too big. There were also concerns about the road being built in a flood plain and how it would affect the planned park. The cost was another sticking point: It hovered around $1.5 billion.

The Dallas City Council supported the Trinity Parkway for a long time. And, for a long time, Hunt was in the minority.  

Through the years, Hunt continued her fight against the toll road. Others joined her, and the voices of the opposition grew louder. 

In 2015, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings commissioned a team of urban planners he dubbed "the dream team" to redesign the Trinity Parkway as a four-lane, meandering road instead of a six-lane tollway.

Though the toll road was initially seen as a way to relieve traffic elsewhere, data from the Texas Department of Transportation showed that any road built along the Trinity wouldn't ease traffic significantly.

In recent years, newly-elected council members raised more concerns about the planned toll road. And, last week, a majority of council members said they didn't support the current plans.

'Dismayed, disillusioned, and disappointed'

After years of support for the toll road, City Council members gathered around the City Hall horseshoe on Wednesday morning and killed the Trinity Parkway. It took just 30 minutes. 

Rickey Callahan was one of two council members who voted to keep the parkway alive.

“For those that shifted their loyalty, obviously I'm dismayed, disillusioned, and disappointed,” he said. “How could so many people be so wrong?"

Callahan represents Southeast Dallas and thinks the toll road would help his district.

He wants his colleagues to find ways to help southern Dallas. Council member Lee Kleinman promised to do so.

“I pledge the mobility and infrastructure committee that we're going to figure out how to make sure that there are transportation and mobility options for that part of Dallas,” Kleinman said. “I think that's critical."

But council member Kevin Felder, who represents parts of South Dallas, pointed out a road alone isn't going to help residents who live south of Interstate 30.

"We have a plethora of issues and problems that have been decades in the making in South Dallas and the southern sector,” Felder said. “There is no silver bullet."

'It is Angela Hunt's day'

In the end, Felder and 12 of his council colleagues voted to pull support for the Trinity Parkway. After the vote, council member Sandy Greyson pointed out Angela Hunt, who was at the meeting.

"If this is anyone's day, it is Angela Hunt's day,” she said. “Congratulations, Angela Hunt."

The room filled with applause.

Ten years after she launched a campaign to kill the Trinity Parkway,  Hunt was there to see the Dallas City Council hammer the nail in the coffin. 

Future steps

Since the council has killed the toll road, the city will have to inform the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation.

The council's still interested in building the park between the Ron Kirk and Margaret McDermott bridges. The City Council voted 9-6 Wednesday on a management plan for park construction. 

The Trinity vote

The Dallas City Council voted 13-2 to pull support for the planned toll road along the Trinity River. Casey Thomas and Rickey Callahan were the two council members that voted to spare the project. 

A look back at the Trinity Parkway

The city of Dallas has a complicated history with the Trinity River, dating back to a deadly flood in the early 20th century. Explore more in the timeline below.

Listen to the story previewing the vote

The KERA Radio story.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.