Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"The Trinity toll road will run a deficit and a higher cost that would impact other road projects."

Changes, delays increasing Trinity toll road costs

January 8, 2008

Copyright 2008

DALLAS - While it's only been two months since the vote, design changes and delays are already adding to the cost of the Trinity toll road in the form of tens of millions of dollars.

The Dallas City Council also learned Tuesday that the toll road could end up snatching highway dollars from other North Texas projects.

Dallas voters settled that the Trinity toll road would be built just inside the east levee of the river. However, what was not settled was the cost.

During the campaign, toll road backers estimated the cost at $1.3 billion dollars.

"Keep in mind, that all of those estimates are for comparative purposes only," said Jerry Hiebert, executive director of the North Texas Tollway Authority.

But design changes required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are adding up.

The NTTA video released showed piers drilled in the levee supporting exit ramps. but the Corps decided the piers could weaken the levee. In result, the Corps has now demanded what's called diaphragm walls, which are concrete walls dug into the levee costing up to $60 million more.

"It's a more costly construction technique, but that's what's necessary to protect the integrity of the levee," Hiebert said.

The NTTA won't make another total cost estimate until later this year. But with design changes, a completion delay from 2013 to 2014 and annual inflation of at least 10 percent, a city council committee acknowleged the final cost will be higher.

"These things happen in the real world, and that's what is going to happen here," said Mitchell Rasansky, Dallas City Council. "But, we're going to go forward with this thing."

Unlike the State Highway 121 toll road that will generate surplus revenue for other North Texas highways, the Trinity toll road will run a deficit and a higher cost that would impact other road projects.

"It will either be delayed or ... they will not get the funding that they need to go forward with those projects because the funding is going to have to come to this tollroad," said Angela Hunt, Dallas City Council.

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