A Texas Transportation Commissioner Wednesday said traffic congestion improvements could be made to the lower Stemmons Freeway as Dallas City Council Members made it clear they will kill Trinity Toll Road next week.
A roadway along the Dallas Trinity River was first approved by voters in 1998 and again in 2007.
But new members who joined the Dallas City Council tipped the scale against the controversial road and made their feelings clear at a briefing on the roadway Wednesday.
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“Many of the constituents talked about the toll road and did not see a need for it,” new Councilman Kevin Felder said.
It could cost $2 billion and opponents long complained that it could spoil the proposed Trinity River Park that is planned beside the roadway.
“We have no money to build this road, but we do have some money to build a park,” said new Councilman Omar Narvaez.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said he now agrees that pushing the road he supported in the past is unwise and traffic projections do not support the expense.
“I like to try to make my decisions based on data and that’s what I saw,” Rawlings said.
Over the years the road was envisioned as a high speed toll road to relieve traffic through Downtown Dallas.
Then Mayor Rawlings led a redesign effort that changed the concept to a meandering parkway to blend better with a proposed park. That reduced traffic relief projections.
Councilman Rickey Callahan who represents the Pleasant Grove area of Southeast Dallas said killing the road is breaking a promise for improved mobility to his district.
“You’re robbing the future of the people that I’ve been entrusted to represent. It is just patently unfair,” Callahan said. “There is really no reason not to build this.”
Former Council Member Angela Hunt who led the 2007 campaign against the road disagreed with Callahan.
“It affects traffic minimally at the very best and so we can’t possibly justify $2 billion on a project that doesn’t fix traffic. That’s the whole point of it,” Hunt said. “Today I think is an exciting day to see the City Council finally coming together behind killing the Trinity Toll Road.”
The official vote will be taken next Wednesday along with a vote on a management plan for the proposed park.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff said more lanes will be needed in the future to the parallel Stemmons Freeway if the Trinity Toll Road is not built.
“We can certainly do improvements to 35E which can address a majority of that problem,” he said.
The options Vandergriff mentioned are widening the freeway and taking land to do it or elevating portions of the highway.