City News Roundup

Task force aims to preserve downtown Dallas and more tales of the city

Task force aims to preserve downtown Dallas and more tales of the city

View from Dallas City Hall toward downtown
A new task force will focus on preserving our heritage in downtown Dallas. Photo by Alex Bentley
Trinity River toll road rendering
This rendering of the Trinity River toll road never gets old. Photo courtesy of Trinity River Corridor Project
View from Dallas City Hall toward downtown
Trinity River toll road rendering

Dallas has a new task force that will try to prevent random teardowns of vintage buildings. At the same time, citizens continue to ask questions about the Trinity Parkway toll road, including why to build it and who will pay for it.

Our weekly summary of news around Dallas begins now:

Build it and we're gone
On January 8, State Sen. Royce West hosted a private briefing on the Trinity toll road with city leaders, purportedly to gauge their support. The press wasn't invited, but developer Monte Anderson was. He says the meeting was dominated by toll road proponents, with little time given to the opponents to speak.

"Same old stuff that most of us have already heard," he says, "except they have added another freeway flyover and are calling it the Jefferson Memorial Bridge, which will completely destroy the Oak Farms/Burnett Field site in North Oak Cliff."

Candy Evans had a fly on the wall. "About 30 to 35 people showed up, I'm told," she says. No-shows included Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas City Council members Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston, and Dallas County commissioners John Wiley Price and Elba Garcia. Evans' commenters suggested starting a campaign called #BuildItAndWe'reGone.

Who's the toll road for?
One of the justifications for building the toll road is the idea that it's needed for workers from southern areas such as Pleasant Grove to commute to the jobs in the Stemmons Corridor. Urban planner Patrick Kennedy crunches some numbers to prove that idea is a fallacy.

Tracking patterns along Stemmons Corridor, he finds that traffic is actually dropping, and so is congestion. Counting the number of commuters and where they're going, he concludes that the toll road would ultimately serve approximately 4,625 people.

"Does it make sense to spend $1.7 billion for 4,625 people? That’s nearly $400,000 per person," he says. "Just write them a check directly if we're so intent on spending it."

Where's the funding?
Of all the questions being raised about the viability of the Trinity Parkway toll road, the biggest is funding. The Dallas Morning News tallies up the "massive shortfall" the toll road faces, and what monies have been committed already.

There's $141.3 million from the Regional Transportation Council, $40 million from the NTTA and $44 million left from the $84 million bond money voters approved in 1998. Other potential sources include a private developer and federal funds, if the project gets approved by the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Downtown task force
Mayor Rawlings and city council member Philip Kingston authorized the creation of a task force to monitor teardowns in the central business district, in the wake of a number of controversial demolitions of older buildings. The task force will protect Dallas' heritage while encouraging growth. The chair is Katherine D. Seale, current Landmark Commission chair and former Preservation Dallas executive director. Other members of the task force include urban planners and developers such as Larry Hamilton and Jack Matthews.

City election news
The upcoming election for city council seats is May 9, and the deadline to file is February 27, which means we'll be seeing potential candidates pop up over the next few weeks. For example, Adam McGough, chief of staff for Mayor Rawlings, whose visit to the Advocate office possibly represents an interest in running for the spot in District 10 soon to be vacated by Jerry Allen. McGough oversees the GrowSouth Initiative, which focuses on strengthening neighborhoods, schools and investment in southern Dallas.