City News Roundup

Mayor steps up to debate and other hot topics around Dallas this week

Mayor steps up to debate and other hot topics around Dallas this week

Dallas finally got to witness a long-awaited mayoral candidate debate. And in the department of long waits, preparations are underway for the opening of the downtown Dallas to Oak Cliff trolley.

Here’s the biggest city news out of Dallas this week:

Mayor debates
After being reclusive, Mayor Mike Rawlings got out for some debates this week with fellow candidate Marcos Ronquillo, including an informal event at the African American Museum and a more formal debate at Belo Mansion on March 31. The Belo event drew a good crowd, including city council members and candidates, such as Philip Kingston, Scott Griggs and Tennell Atkins; as well as a large group from the League of Women Voters, who co-hosted the event with the Dallas Bar Assocation.

Regarding city management: Rawlings said that "A.C. Gonzalez has done a good job, he has not done a good enough job." You would think he would pick one answer, so confusing. Ronquillo said that the city needs to improve its technology to be more responsive.

Regarding the toll road: Ronquillo said that it is "a solution in search of a problem." Rawlings said that traffic was our No. 2 problem, drugs being No. 1.

Regarding the "Dream Team": Rawlings said that he'll be speaking to them "probably next weekend, and we'll be talking to the press sometime next week." Ronquillo asked why a group that is not a government body was involved. "We don't know who's paying them," he said.

Other topics included DISD, Fair Park, Love Field and crime. In his closing statement, Rawlings said, "I believe this vehicle is running swiftly. We need to not take our foot off the pedal." Ronquillo said, "A city is a collection of great neighborhoods and every neighborhood has a great elementary school."

Toll road approval
The Federal Highway Administration signed off on the toll road on April 1, which means only that it can get federal funds. It still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And even the FHA's approval felt half-hearted: "The do-not-build option is always on the table,” said FHA spokesman Doug Hecox.

Riverfront extension
A possible alternative to the toll road was drafted by Dallas citizen Robbie Good — one that's simple, cheap and smart.

Keeping in mind the toll road's mission to connect the Stemmons Corridor to South Dallas, Good's plan inserts an extension which connects 175 to Riverfront Boulevard, which currently comes to an end just south of the jail at Reunion Arena. Instead of nine miles, this extension would run only two miles. It would also allow for the creation of more direct bus routes to places such as Parkland Hospital.

"I was riding my bike over the Houston Street viaduct, and looked over and saw that the traffic on Riverfront was dead," Good says. "Making a connection from 175 would add traffic to this street that's way under capacity, and would provide an access point for southern Dallas."

Good used Google maps to calculate data on commute times, and his suggestion comes out way ahead. Last but not least, it would cost a fraction of the toll road plan: Instead of spending $1.5 billion on the roll road, Good estimates his plan would cost $150 million.

Oak Cliff streetcar
For the next several weeks, DART is testing the streetcar vehicles on the new tracks on the Houston viaduct, Zang Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard. Vehicle traffic on Jefferson is being diverted to Marsalis, but bicyclists won't get shut out, since the cycle track is still open to bikes.

Engineers have set up temporary traffic controls which will remain in place until they're done testing the streetcar. The cycle track is free of barricades now.

Too much luxe?
We're about to see a glut of high-priced luxury high-rise residences. More than a dozen apartment buildings are under construction or planned in the Dallas area — mostly in Uptown and the Design District, with rents that run from $3,000 to $5,000 a month. They include: three high-rises at Victory Park, three under construction in Uptown and three more planned. And Southern Land Co. of Tennessee wants to build a 19-story apartment building off 75, south of Knox Street.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings at 2013 New Cities Summit
Debatable Mayor Mike Rawlings. Photo courtesy of New Cities Foundation
Trinity toll road sketch
Toll road tolling. Photo courtesy of City of Dallas
Dallas streetcar, Bishop Arts, trolley
Streetcar rolling. DART/Facebook