Monday, June 1, 2009

Trinity toll road delay may extend to 2016

By BRAD WATSOn - WFAA-TV - Monday, June 1, 2009
DALLAS - Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert's goal of finishing the Trinity River toll road by 2014 sank Monday with the announcement that the controversial highway won't be done until perhaps 2016, if then.

Design work will stop while the city spends millions of dollars to study and repair the levees.

Approved by voters in 1998, the latest deadline to open the Trinity toll road in 2014 slipped away just like all the others.

"It will be put off into the 2015, 2016 time frame, and that will be the 20-month delay on it," he said.

The city must spend $29 million to study what levee repairs to make after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rated the levees flood protection unacceptable.

The Corps found too much erosion, obstacles like trees in the floodway and bridge penetrations in the levees.

The repairs will cost more that the Corps may share. The impact to residential and commercial property owners along the river is immediate.

If the city can't prove to the federal government by early 2011 that the levees are sound or make the repairs then the government will declare Dallas has no flood protection.

"We're saying it’s the prudent thing right now to go ahead get flood insurance when it’s the low rates," Leppert advised property owners.

The delay could push the $1.8-billion toll road past $2 billion.

Critics, like city council member Angela Hunt, said the planned highway between the levees should be dropped from the Trinity project to move ahead with levee and park improvements.

"We've got to untangle these projects so that those projects aren't all delayed by two years because of the delay on the toll road," she said.

But that wouldn't solve the worsening downtown traffic congestion the toll road is to help relieve.

For now, the city and Leppert said they believe the best choice is to press on.

"And we're not going to give up," Leppert said. "There's too much at stake for that.”
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