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The Beginning of the End for Dallas’s Trinity Toll Road?

11:37 AM EDT on April 17, 2015

Dallas City Council is endorsing and alternative to the Trinity Toll Road, without formally withdrawing support for the larger highway plan. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette
The "dream team" alternative to the Trinity Toll Road in Dallas would build a smaller four-lane road, but it leaves the door open for wide highway later on. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette [PDF]
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It seems like the Trinity Toll Road -- a proposal to build a wide, high-speed road right next to the Trinity River in Dallas -- is losing momentum. But the politics of road-building in Texas are tricky, and the highway isn't dead yet.

Earlier this week, a "dream team" of advisers selected by Mayor Mike Rawlings, who supports the project, came out and said they didn't think the $1.5 billion highway was necessary, and that it would ultimately undermine efforts to establish a nice park by the river. However, their proposal for a smaller, four-lane road would leave open the option of building a wider highway later on.

In the City Council, legislators are still looking to build the full highway, but now they won't come out and say it directly. At least, that seems to be the takeaway from the latest intrigue, according to Dallas Morning News' Transportation Blog reporter Brandon Formby:

In a last-minute amendment, the City Council voted unanimously not to affirm its support of the larger version of Trinity Parkway that’s planned to be built. But it didn’t technically say it doesn’t support it. In a way, it reaffirmed its support for the current large plan in a subsequent 10-4 vote to look at how to incorporate the dream team’s recommendations into the existing, already FHWA-approved plan for the larger road.

Philip Kingston made the motion to reaffirm support for that larger version still (likely) moving forward, referred to as Alternative 3C. It was an apparent attempt to nail down his colleagues on whether or not they actually support eventually going bigger if they start small with the dream team’s recommendations.

And it came after last-minute, behind-the-scenes negotiations in the past two days to get council members to formally drop support for 3C broke down in an attempt during an attempt by both sides to secure a unanimous vote to move forward with just the dream team’s plan, according to people familiar with the situation.

Even Formby, who's been following this intently, wasn't sure what to make of this: "Where does that leave us? My guess is where we were -- the larger version lives." But we're just weeks from an election that could decide the matter for good. A roster of anti-toll road candidates is vying for open seats on them City Council. If enough of them win, it could put a definitive halt to the project.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Urbanist reports that Seattle's getting some new protected bike lanes. NRDC Switchboard discusses this ins and outs of "green streets." And Strong Towns delves into the bizarre psychology of why some Texans would oppose a totally privately funded high-speed rail project.

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