So. Some of our fearless city leaders want to build a toll road along the Trinity River bed that splits Dallas into north and south. One of my goals this year is to gauge where the real estate community stands on this issue. On Thursday, State Sen. Royce West invited a handful of prominent city leaders to the Urban League of Dallas on Lancaster Road for a closed-door briefing. He let no press in, not even the Dallas Morning News, saying the meeting was closed to the public because it was meant to be a briefing for his own info, so he could respond to his constituents.
Who was there? Presenters were West, North Central Texas Council of Governments Transportation Director Michael Morris, City of Dallas Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan, City of Dallas Transportation Program Manager Keith Manoy, Texas Department of Transportation Dallas District Deputy Engineer Kelly Selman, and NTTA Executive Director of Infrastructure Elizabeth Mow. Also Bob Meckfessel, former president of the Dallas AIA, a guy who cares deeply about Dallas architecture. Meckfessel was once for the toll road, now he says he is against.
Those invited: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, former Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm, six Dallas City Council members (including Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Vonciel Jones Hill and Dwaine Caraway), Dallas County Commissioners John Wiley Price and Elba Garcia, Farmers Branch council member Ana Reyes, West Dallas developer Monte Anderson, urban planner Patrick Kennedy, folks from the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation, real estate investor Philip Wise and State Rep. Raphael Anchia, who is polling constituents about this topic. About 30 to 35 people showed up I’m told. Mayor Mike was not there, Griggs and Kingston were somewhere else. No John Wiley, no Elba Garcia. Philip Wise was not there but his partner Barry Hancock was.
The proposed 9-mile road connecting Irving and northwest Dallas to South Dallas, aka the Trinity Toll Road, is becoming one of the city’s biggest controversies. Hot, hot topic, cocktail party chatter now superseding what your home is worth. And West has been a supporter of the $1.5 billion project. But he has said, in numerous media reports, he would oppose the highway if a majority of his constituents oppose it and highway capacity is added elsewhere near downtown Dallas. Which is a valid point.
After the meeting, Royce told the Dallas Morning News he had not changed his mind at all.
But then, he spent the majority of time hearing how great it was, from what I hear happened at the meeting:
Supporters spent almost two hours describing their plans. The Trinity Tollway will essentially be a five-lane highway, three lanes on each side plus two shoulders. (Update: three lanes each way, each with two large shoulders — essentially five lanes one-way.) There will be direct access to the Trinity Tollway from all other area freeways in the vicinity.
Now if you think a toll road is a bad idea or even have an inkling of a thought that it could be not such a great idea, hang on. There are bigger plans. It’s called the Jefferson Memorial Bridge. This is to be a gigantic freeway flyover, spun as a memorial to, I guess, Thomas Jefferson or Jefferson Boulevard. The cost for building the bridge would be in addition to the cost of the Trinity. They would tear down the existing Jefferson bridge to accommodate the Trinity Tollway exit. The new Jefferson Memorial Bridge will become a highway fly-over over the Trinity, dissecting the Oak Farms Dairy site. Think of it as a mini freeway connecting the Trinity Tollway to I-35. See two proposed alignments we gleaned from Dallas City staff above.
Think of spaghetti. Lots of spaghetti.
Apparently the Jefferson Memorial Bridge is critical to the whole thing to get it built. Michael Morris says it’s standard transportation model 101.
One thing that was never brought up by these guys: the concept of living and working in the same area. You know, walking to work. Of course, maybe that comes in Part II?
But party on! There was talk of using the the Trinity River toll road as a parkway on weekends… maybe even having a street party on the tollway? Yes, my sources say this was really said in words. Have a party on a highway.
So for about an hour and forty-five minutes, the Trinity supporters gave pitches. Vonciel Jones Hill was there and gave her pitch. Two guesses what she said:
“ALL I CARE ABOUT IS GETTING PEOPLE UP TO THEIR JOBS IN THE HOSPITAL DISTRICT AND THE STEMMONS CORRIDOR.”
Nothing about building wealth for or in her own community. Question for Vonciel: if you live in her district, is Parkland the only place you can work? (Granted, that new hospital is pretty nice.) Can you not maybe work at Baylor? And why a hospital job per se? Can her “people” not do anything else but empty bedpans? Quick, go read Patrick Kennedy’s analysis on the whole commuter thing. We’ll wait.
OK, now we’re back. Onward.
Bob Meckfessel asked for 2 to 3 minutes to talk. He was reserved, maybe felt out-gunned? Michael Morris said the tollway was following the Dallas Balanced Vision Plan. Meckfessel disagreed — said it was not. He asked about creating jobs and entrepreneurs in the southern sector rather than transporting them elsewhere. Plus things have changed drastically in Dallas in the last 15 years, he said.
This was not said, but I am adding: The average black person’s net worth in this country is $6,000, the average Caucasian’s is $190,000. How do you help grow net worth? By building within a community. Look at Harlem real estate today versus 30 years ago!
My initial take from talking to sources at this meeting was that the Trinity will not help build real estate in the southern sector at all. Rather, it will continue a steady stream of crappy cars breaking down on a shiny new highway. Perhaps the money could be better spent on the infrastructure in the southern sector? President Obama just offered to give every kid in America a two-year community college education. While I would personally prefer to see that tied to at least one year of service to this country (and I don’t mean military), there you go. Why not create incentives for businesses to plant themselves in the southern sector so you could have the jobs THERE, not in the Stemmons Corridor? Apartments and housing would follow.
With what it costs to build the Trinity tollway, you could send every child south of I-30 to 4 years at UNT.
My second take is that we need an influx of commerce TO this area, not AWAY from it. How do we do that? Please, the comment lines are wide open. The current population of Dallas is hovering around zero growth. I do not think the Trinity Tollway is going to improve that. Growth in Dallas au currant is in NORTH TEXAS: Plano, Frisco, Prosper, and north. The Dallas North Tollway fed that. Is that why we are in such a Tollway = personal wealth state of mind?
I leave you with two words: BISHOP ARTS! Bishop Arts was built by local entrepreneurs who made it cool. Hipness and coolness in a neighborhood comes from within. You start with a few bold locals who take a risk, initiate change and get everyone to take a look. Then the folks from the outside come in to invest.Chaching. I spent much of yesterday with some apartment investors in another part of town. Local small business entrepreneurs, starting by buying one building at a time and making them better. Isn’t this more of what we need to grow south Dallas? If not, please tell me.