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Dallas City Council To Pursue Different Design For Trinity Toll Road

Trinity Parkway Design Charette Report
New plans for the proposed Trinity Toll Road include a four lane, meandering 9-mile parkway with multiple access to planned Trinity River parks.

A re-design of the proposed Trinity Toll Road got official support of the Dallas City Council Thursday. The final vote in support of a four-lane, meandering parkway came only after a cloud of confusion cleared.

Council members liked the new plan to re-do the 9-mile toll road passing downtown inside the Trinity River levees next to the planned park.  It’s the work of a so-called dream team assembled by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. He asked the team of architects, urban planners and landscape professionals to re-think the controversial project. 

The plan won over longtime toll road critic, council member Sandy Greyson.

“We wanted to see a four lane road, low speed, park access," Greyson said. " And this was our vision.”

But it is not the toll road plan the city has submitted to federal highway officials for final approval. And a majority of the council refused to officially shelve the high-speed, six-lane toll road.

They did, however, on a last-minute resolution by council member Philip Kingston vote not to affirm an earlier council’s approval of the big toll road project.

Council member Vonceil Jones Hill warned that removing the high-speed toll road from the city’s transportation plan could really gum up the works.

“[It] has the potential to put the entire project at risk for several more years,” Hill said.

That set off the flurry of resolutions tacked onto Hill’s motion to pursue the dream team's recommendations within the footprint of the existing toll road plans.

Confusion over what was actually being voted on and why was evident. At one point, the city attorney had to call a timeout to sort it out.  It was all too much for Council member Jennifer Gates.

“I think that if the public needed any kind of evidence that this body would rather play games than take action on what Dallas needs now, you have it,” Gates said.

But council member Scott Griggs said he doesn’t trust City Hall and the various agencies to embrace the meandering parkway unless the city specifically kills the current toll road plan.

“Each of them will say 'oh, you have to compromise this. You have to compromise that,'" Griggs said. "And five years from now, we’ll have a road that the dream team will not recognize.”

Rawlings, a longtime toll road supporter, tried to calm things down.

“It is time for us to take a chill pill, OK," Rawlings said. "And to trust in positive intentions.”

Dallas real estate executive Marcus Wood told the council to quit fooling around and build the six-lane toll road.

“We need the parkway, the tollway, whatever you want to call it, and we need it now," Wood said.  "There should be no roadway design delays.”

In the end, the council voted to name a new team of experts to figure out how to actually do the dream team design.  The mayor says he wants to see a lot of public input.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.