"The Army Corps of Engineers isn't supposed to be cooperating with the city politicians..."
By BRAD WATSON
DALLAS — The North Texas Tollway Authority is still waiting for approval to start important soil tests needed to keep the Trinity River toll road on schedule.
An NTTA contractor bored for soil samples in the Trinity River floodway on Tuesday, but not along the east levee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not yet satisfied that NTTA has a safe plan. "We want to make sure that they're doing it correctly so they don't leave any weak spots in the levees," explained Gene Rice, the Corps' project manager.
NTTA must drill hundreds of holes in the levee for the toll road design that the Dallas City Council wants delivered to the Corps by May 1.
More than 10 years of delays have increased the highway's projected price tag to $1.8 billion.
NTTA met with the Corps on Tuesday with the hope of winning the agency's approval to begin drilling by next Monday at the latest.
But that date it may be too late to meet the May deadline, according to NTTA spokesman Dan Chapman. "Until we actually get in and start doing this drilling in the levee and see what results we get from that, it's really premature to make any kind of forecast of how that's going to be impacted," he said.
The Corps' fear of water entering the levee from drill holes is not unfounded. Sections of the levees can slide when the soil becomes soaked.
A section giving way during high water would be catastrophic.
That's why toll road critic and city council member Angela Hunt doesn't like any city pressure on the Corps to meet the 2014 deadline to finish.
"The Corps isn't supposed to be cooperating with the city," Hunt said. "The Corps is supposed to be evaluating the safety of our levee system to protect the citizens of Dallas."
Each day of delay increases the highway's cost about $333,000.
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