New Trinity Parkway Plans Produce Conflict Between Old Foes

New Trinity Parkway animation released

A briefing Monday from a panel appointed to refine plans for a Dallas Trinity River Parkway sparked new conflict over the roadway first approved by voters 18 years ago.

The special panel reviewed a low-speed parkway concept released last year by a "Dream Team" of planners appointed by Mayor Mike Rawlings to see how it could conform with a high-speed tollway plan already approved by federal regulators.

Last year's parkway plan was intended to improve access to a proposed Trinity River Park, which was also promised to voters years ago.

The new panel found the parkway plan could meet federal approval in several key aspects but called for additional study on other questions with between $2 and $3 million required for more consultants.

Animation released at Monday's meeting still shows a tree-lined roadway like the parkway plan last year and it adds a landscaped median. But it also straightens some of the meandering suggested last year and includes a higher speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

"Overall, I'm real excited about what I see here," said Councilman Lee Kleinman. "I'm excited that we have come to a point of compromise and consensus."

But strong division was still obvious at Monday's meeting between longtime supporters and critics of a tollway, who were members of the latest review panel.

Former City Council member Angela Hunt, a strong critic, said too many parkway features were removed in the latest plan. She called for stopping the process and starting an entirely new plan.

"Unfortunately, this has really devolved at every opportunity, at every branch. This road has become straighter, faster, longer and wider and that doesn't represent a true park road," Hunt said.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a tollway opponent, said last year's Dream Team concept should be followed.

"After today we hope that the Dallas City Council comes to the same conclusion as the Dream Team and that is that the massive toll road is not needed," Anchia said.

Tollway supporter Lee Jackson, a former Dallas County Judge and now University of North Texas chancellor, said the original Trinity Project promised several functions to voters, including downtown congestion relief.

"It's serving flood control, recreation and mobility. It was never proposed purely as a local park access road," Jackson said.

Jackson said a slower speed road strictly for park access is not likely to attract the money needed to build it.

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk supported the original plan and said critics are still trying to stop any Trinity roadway from being built.

"If you'd asked me when we passed this in 1999 if we'd still be sitting here doing this, I would have been broken-hearted," Kirk said. "But unfortunately, this is the Dallas way."

Pleasant Grove Councilman Rickey Callahan said his constituents demand an alternate route around Downtown Dallas that a Trinity Parkway could provide.

"My goal has always been to have a high speed reliever road," Callahan said. "You know, we're all giving up something there folks."

Council members receiving the briefing wanted to allow a month or so for public comment before taking a formal vote on hiring more consultants to move the plans forward.

"I don't want to see you all here back here in 15 years talking about this same thing. So, let's move forward," Councilman Erik Wilson said.

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