Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Angela Hunt, sharply questioned city officials about what Dallas really stands to lose if voters approve the referendum and reject the road."

Toll road foe Hunt grills Dallas leaders on Trinity plan

Dallas: Park projects don't hinge on toll road funds, officials confirm

September 6, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

The swirling politics over the proposed Trinity River toll road spilled into Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting in a preview of the hard fight to come before a November referendum determines whether the road will be built as planned.

During an otherwise routine briefing on the overall parks budget, the toll road's chief opponent, council member Angela Hunt, sharply questioned city officials about what Dallas really stands to lose if voters approve the referendum and reject the road.

Pressed by Ms. Hunt, Parks Department Director Paul Dyer confirmed that an arboretum, equestrian center and white-water area – all elements of a sweeping park planned as part of the Trinity River project – aren't dependent on funds tied to the toll road.

"I think we've all heard in the media we're going to be losing money for our park. Look at these projects – they're going forward," Ms. Hunt said.

Her comments prompted Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia and council member David Neumann to quickly leap to the toll road's defense.

"We do have funding partnerships here," Ms. Garcia said.

The North Texas Tollway Authority has committed $30 million for excavation and access to the park's largest lake, she said.

Ms. Garcia also suggested that money from private funding sources could dry up if the toll road isn't built.

"We know how hard it is to do fundraising when all the pieces aren't in place and ready to go," she said.

Ms. Hunt also cautioned city employees to be careful when they discuss the acreage of the park, urging them not to refer to the park as the 10,000 acres that make up the Trinity River greenbelt from Royal Lane to Interstate 20.

"This park is not a 10,000-acre park by any stretch of the imagination," Ms. Hunt said, referring to the roughly 800 acres that would include most of the amenities in the planned park.

The council's division over city parks wasn't limited to the Trinity, however.

A discussion of Fair Park and the future of the Cotton Bowl prompted council member Mitchell Rasansky to argue that the city shouldn't put another nickel into renovation of the aging stadium until Dallas has commitments from prospective users for the next 10 years or more.

Several council members rejected that idea, saying the Cotton Bowl must be renovated before the city can hope to attract more long-term contracts.

"We can ill afford to act like we can't do anything with the Cotton Bowl," council member Dwaine Caraway said.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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