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NTTA Deals Another Blow to Leppert and Vote No! Print E-mail
by Sam Merten    Tue, Oct 16, 2007, 02:40 PM

tom_leppert8.jpgOne of the interesting things I read in the Interlocal Agreement (ILA), which the NTTA confirmed is the most recent agreement between the city and the NTTA, was a part that said in order to make the project feasible, "the turnpike project would be restricted to passenger cars and light trucks only."

As I said in yesterday’s story, this was the only thing that seemed to change from when the agreement was signed in 1999 until now regarding how the road itself would operate. Despite years of denying that large trucks will be using the turnpike, the Vote No! campaign has suddenly changed course, admitting big trucks will be on this road. This is what Bill Blaydes said at the Oct. 1 debate in Lake Highlands.

“Trucks are gonna use it,” Blaydes said. “Trucks are gonna use it because it is the fastest route of getting through a metroplex that is growing at the rate of 3,000 people a day.”

With the $50,000 contribution by The Allen Group to the Vote No! campaign, certainly it is banking on big trucks using it too. The Observer’s Jim Schutze detailed Allen’s interest in his Oct. 10 posting on Unfair Park. But what does the NTTA think about running 18-wheelers down this turnpike?

The NTTA said it is desirable from a traffic operations standpoint, causing better traffic flow, and an environmental standpoint, reducing the chance of major spill in floodway, to restrict vehicles classified as semi-trailers and larger from the road. The NTTA also said restricting these vehicles from the proposed turnpike will require approvals from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), the NTTA and the Dallas City Council. 

Vote No! has said large trucks will be using the turnpike and the NTTA is concerned about the environmental safety of allowing these trucks on the road. Why is Leppert ignoring this concern? I’m sure it has nothing to do with Allen sponsoring an event to help him get back the $950,000 he loaned himself during his run for mayor.

I also followed up with the NTTA about the estimate of $140 to $150 million of turnpike revenue bonds contained in the ILA. With Mayor Leppert claiming the NTTA will be kicking in nearly $1 billion, there is a big gap, so I asked if the estimate from the ILA has changed.

“This $140 to $150 million estimate was done in 1998 using traffic numbers generated using a demographic data set with a horizon year of 2020,” the NTTA said. “No new estimate has been compiled.”

One of the answers I’ve been trying to get from Mayor Leppert is an explanation about why the recent addition to the Dallas North Tollway cost $264 million and the proposed Trinity Turnpike’s cost is at $1.3 billion and rising since both roads are nearly the same length and width.

After a debate Oct. 2 at the Fairmont Hotel, Leppert told me the cost difference was because of inflation. He finally backed off his original stance that there was no cost difference because the turnpike was being built in a floodway, but he made his argument based on inflation.

Then at the Oct. 7 debate at Temple Emanu-El, Leppert gave a speech about how both roads were really the same price.

“That was in early 2000 dollars. These projections are in 2010-plus dollars. You look at cost of construction with inflation, the value is $265 and takes it 2.65 times.” Leppert said. “The $1.3 billion has $300 million worth of contingencies built in. There’s an extra $88 million worth of right-of-way that we’re paying for that Frisco didn’t pay for. There are five times the amendments. There are seven times the amount of dirt work that has to be done. When you come to all of this, it’s the same darned price. Those are the numbers. That’s what’s important in understanding and getting the facts on the table.”

It turns out Leppert was correct about the $88 million in right-of-way, according to the NTTA. Now the question becomes what is this land and who owns it? That is my next project. As for his claim that the price tag was “in early 2000 dollars,” I asked the NTTA for the final cost of the Dallas North Tollway extension.

“Phase 3, while substantially complete and open to traffic, is still under construction,” the NTTA said. “The reported cost of $264 million is valid; however, a contingency of $5 to $10 million is set aside as a precaution for unknowns.”

I also asked the NTTA if it was fair to say one of the reasons the floodway option is more costly is because it's being built in a floodway and its response was “yes.”

Mayor Leppert has said throughout this campaign that he has been in constant contact with officials from the NTTA, TxDOT and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Based on this story and the one I posted yesterday, clearly the NTTA’s information contradicts a lot of what Mayor Leppert has said.

His integrity has become a serious question throughout this campaign, raising doubts about his ability to run Dallas honestly. No matter where you stand on this debate, Leppert has been caught providing misinformation to the public on a serious matter. In addition, he is ignoring environmental issues that are apparent to the NTTA by allowing large trucks on this road to please a political donor.

Are citizens supposed to believe this will stop once the Nov. 6 election is over?


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Comments (10)add comment
written by Nathan , October 16, 2007


There is also a phase 4 of the DNT. Does anyone at NTTA know how much it will cost?

How much do you want to bet that once the 'Leppert for Mayor' campaign breaks even, the remaining balance of contributions will be funneled into the 'voteno' campaign.

written by Mary Warren , October 16, 2007

I volunteered at the forum on the Trinity proposition at Ervin Elementary last night. Remember Leppert's reassurances that he ordered City employees to be sure to avoid campaigning in an official capacity for either side? Well, the program began with a City employee who has been working on the Trinity Project for 10 years giving an opening PowerPoint "informative" presentation. It was a blatant promotional piece for the toll road plan. It was packed with the same lies and more that the "No" presenters have all been spreading. He bored everyone to death for at least 15 minutes before being urged to conclude.

written by Gehrig Saldaña , October 16, 2007

I'm trying to picture the tranquility and clean air within Trinity River Park with an adjoining 55 mile per hour TURNPIKE filled with constant BIG TRUCK traffic. Get the picture folks? Looks like the HOODWINKING attempts are slowly coming to light.

written by Lake Highlands Voter , October 16, 2007

Wow. Great story. I can't believe he's behaving so unethically, so openly. It's incredible. Thanks for staying on top of this.

written by Jeff Turner , October 16, 2007

Sam: please come to tomorrow's meeting of Grassroots Citizens of Dallas County to be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall located at 10110 Shoreview Road, Dallas 75238. The subject will be a debate between VoteYes and VoteNo representatives, and I would enjoy hearing each side answer some of your pertinent questions directly.

written by David , October 17, 2007

The Pave the Trinity team may not win in November, but Leppert has at least finally figured out how to win a debate: make sure the other side isn't invited.

written by sal costello , October 17, 2007

Trinity Toll Road would pave part of the Lake. WATCH THE SHARE THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO:

written by Sharon Boyd , October 17, 2007

Rebecca Dugger (same city employee) made the same presentation Tuesday night to a "Vote No" only gathering at Arlington Park Rec Center (city owned facility) sponsored by Stemmons Corridor Bs Assn. The TrinityVote Yes side was not invited.

2 people from the neighborhood were there. 2 people from the SCBA were there. 2 reporters and me. When I asked her why the newspaper clippings and campaign brochures from the 98 Trinity election were relevant to a "fact" presentation -- she responded that it was the same presentation she had made all over town and the City Atty had blessed it.

This is the most blatant disregard for City Ethics rules I have ever seen. Remember when they made such a fuss because a city employee moved a podium for a Laura Miller event? This is wrong.

written by Rafael Rodriguez , October 17, 2007

The Interlocal Agreement (ILA) signed in 1999 by former Dallas City Manager Jill Jordan, Jerry Hiebert, former executive director for the NTTA and Charles Heald, former executive director for TxDOT indicates Trinity Turnpike is the correct name for what is now called a Parkway and Toll Road. I never intended to have high volume turnpike traffic adjacent to Trinity Park when I voted to support the Trinity River Project in 1998.

I signed the petition to give Dallas voters a second chance to address this issue. When I vote November 6th, I will first envision what kind of tranquility and clean air my family should expect with an adjoining turnpike/toll road filled with huge cargo trucks constantly passing by as my family utilizes Trinity Park. Then, I will cast my vote to support TrinityVoteYes! to keep this horrible turnpike/toll road out of our park.

written by john k. , October 18, 2007

Don't inviteum has long been the practice of many city of Dallas leaders who only wish for the DMN to carry their message to the people who still read or local "rag." I only wish that I could subscribe to the "Stark Telegram" to get both sides of any story.

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