Trinity River Toll Road Debate Is Back

NTTA holds hearing on proposed toll road

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, May 8, 2012  |  Updated 7:46 PM CDT
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The North Texas Tollway Authority is holding public hearings on the impact of the Trinity Parkway, a 9 mile toll road that would run along the Trinity River from U.S. 175 to  S.H. 183.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

The North Texas Tollway Authority is holding public hearings on the impact of the Trinity Parkway, a 9 mile toll road that would run along the Trinity River from U.S. 175 to S.H. 183.

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The debate over the controversial Trinity River Parkway toll road in Dallas is back after three years on the back burner.

The North Texas Tollway Authority is holding a public hearing Tuesday night to take comments on the latest environmental impact studies for the proposed six-lane toll road.

“Essentially, we’re picking up where we were about three years ago or so," NTTA spokesman Michael Rey said.

Delays came because of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' concerns about the integrity of the Trinity River levees on which portions of the road could be built.

The city has made numerous improvements to the levees and the USACE's concerns have mostly been satisfied.

A letter from the USACE last week said a toll road is “feasible.”

The nine-mile road would run along the river from U.S. 175 on the south to the interchange of Texas 183 and Interstate 35E on the north as a reliever route for downtown Dallas traffic.

Two proposed routes run inside the levees, two use a path along Riverfront Boulevard, and a fifth option is to do nothing.

“It just became obvious to me that we need to have a sense of urgency to build this,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

The city’s preferred option would build all six lanes of the road just inside the east river levee.

All of the routes would take the road directly through Concrete Accessories, a business on Commonwealth Drive near Highway 183.

“For us it’s a win-win situation if it goes away,” owner Norman Ness said.

He said he hoped in the three years when there was little talk about the project that it had just been dropped.

His company’s delivery trucks use the Stemmons and John Carpenter freeways every day, but he said he’s not convinced about the need for the alternate route.

“You need it on Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock," he said. "The rest of the time, there’s some delays through there, especially if there’s an accident. But most of the time, traffic moves fairly well, about as well as any place in Dallas."

Rawlings said traffic congestion is one of the biggest reasons he decided to support the new road. He said he has concluded the toll road can be built without hurting flood protection and without spoiling a proposed park inside the levees.

“We’ve got a lot of work to be able to pass the offering plate to figure out how we pay for this, but I think, ultimately, we’ll get there,” Rawlings said.

The NTTA has not determined how to pay for construction but expects tolls on users to reimburse construction expense.

“We’ve always said it will take a coordinated effort between all the project partners to pay for this. Exactly how that’s going to happen, that’s not known yet,” Rey said.

Opponents of a toll road inside the levees claim it would reduce flood protection, ruin proposed parks and that the traffic benefits are not worth the price of more than $1 billion.

Comments from Tuesday night’s hearing will be included by the NTTA and the Texas Department of Transportation in reports to various regulatory agencies to obtain final approval for the project.

Rey said that could take nine to 12 months.

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