Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"We've sort of flagrantly been accused of thinking about ourselves to the detriment of others."

Highland Park nixes proposal to toll Mockingbird Lane

June 9, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

Amid widespread criticism, Highland Park has put the brakes on a proposal to toll Mockingbird Lane.

Less than a week after town officials said they wanted to study an idea to charge drivers who use the road to cut through town, town administrator George Patterson said Monday that the town is not interested in tolling it or any other roads within its borders.

Officials did not blame the negative response for their change of direction, but they acknowledged receiving much criticism from nonresidents.

"We've sort of flagrantly been accused of thinking about ourselves to the detriment of others," Highland Park Mayor Bill Seay said.

The town has had a long history of conflict between residents inside and outside the town over what purpose Mockingbird serves – whether it's a local residential street or should play a bigger role in regional transportation.

The toll idea surfaced last year after town officials, in a massive regional effort led by DART, introduced it in a federal grant application. The proposal was not funded, but last week town officials said they still wanted to study the idea.

The proposal would have used congestion pricing on Mockingbird, a form of tolling in which charges can fluctuate on a road at various times of the day depending on demand. Local drivers – Highland Park residents – would have been exempted from tolls.

News of town officials' support of studying congestion pricing led to online buzz and harsh criticism from Dallas residents, who would be most affected by a toll. In a survey at dallasnews.com, feedback from dozens of readers was overwhelmingly negative, with some suggesting charging Highland Park residents to drive on Dallas roads.

Town engineer Meran Dadgostar said tolls could have been charged to those using Mockingbird between the Dallas North Tollway and Hillcrest Avenue as a through street.

On Monday, Mr. Patterson suggested that Mr. Dadgostar may have spoken prematurely on the issue. Mr. Dadgostar had planned to discuss congestion pricing with elected officials but no plan was in place, Mr. Patterson said.

"Meran has to be prepared for anything that comes his way. A good engineer will do that," Mr. Patterson said. "It was a matter of having a bigger discussion. We needed for town policy to be talked about."

Mr. Seay said the town would consider participating in a larger regional effort to reduce traffic congestion, including tolling local roads, if other municipalities and agencies were involved.

"It certainly doesn't make sense to do congestion pricing on one road," Mr. Seay said. "We'd want to cooperate with DART, whatever they're putting on the table, we'd want to participate in."


© 2008, The Dallas Morning News www.dallasnews.com

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE