Monday, July 03, 2006

Dallas-Fort Worth demands a larger piece of TTC pork

Opinion: Editorials

Message to Austin about the Trans-Texas Loop: Don't bypass D-FW

July 3, 2006

Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

Just as Dallas and Fort Worth came together over the Wright amendment, civic and business leaders across the region are closing ranks over another transit issue: the state's immense Trans-Texas Corridor project.

It's a vital step if North Texas wants to be properly served by the futuristic, privately built tollway. The region's diverse interests need to harmonize in a clear message to Austin in upcoming hearings over where to locate the corridor.

Here's where things stand: State transportation officials, after two rounds of meetings, have recommended a path for the multibillion-dollar toll corridor. That 500-mile path closely parallels Interstate 35 from Laredo north through San Antonio, Austin and Waco. Then it veers east in a wide swing past most of metro Dallas-Fort Worth.

That wide swing has local transit planners and community leaders dizzy with disbelief – and understandably so. North Texas, an important nexus in transcontinental shipping, needs better access to the giant transit path. But as drawn, the recommended route is as far as 50 miles from some spots in the metro area.

The corridor concept is sound overall. I-35, a vital economic artery from Mexico to the Red River, is dangerously clogged. Quick cash to start a reliever project isn't available from tapped-out government sources. Private developers have been recruited to build the project over 50 years and make a billion-dollar payment to the state. In return, the developers would gain the right to collect tolls on segregated car and truck lanes and on utility and rail lines.
We'd like to say everybody wins, except the project would displace untold thousands in the path of the 1,200-foot-wide swath.

That level of disruption demands a greater good. And that test is not met unless the needs of Dallas-Fort Worth are more prominently figured into the equation.

Those interests are better addressed in an alternative route mapped out by local transit planners. It resembles a giant doughnut around the area, linked to north-south corridor segments.

Planners say the route is superior for two reasons: 1) It provides the super-outer loop that the metro area eventually will need, and 2) it gives through truckers a shorter path around Dallas-Fort Worth.

To press for the locally proposed alternative, a regionwide transit coalition recently made the case to the State Transportation Commission in Austin. And an ad hoc group representing a half-dozen cities recently met to rally local efforts.

State officials say the big doughnut hasn't been ruled out – and, in fact, may be more lucrative to the developers – and that local voices matter in the choice of a final route.

The time has come for those voices to speak up. ATTEND A HEARING

The Texas Department of Transportation will hold 18 North Texas hearings on the Trans-Texas Corridor from July 10 to 27. For a full schedule and details, go to

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co