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Amid New Data, Dallas Mayor Rawlings Backs Toll Road Project

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) – Mayor Mike Rawlings said he got the news he was looking for as TxDOT officially endorsed the Trinity Toll Road Project. Now he’s ready to move the project forward –– but opponents of the project want him to hit the brakes.

Rawlings asked The Texas Department of Transportation to compare the toll road plan to Project Pegasus to determine which should happen first.

Project Pegasus is a series of improvements to Interstates 30 and 35 near downtown that are aimed at alleviating the congestion in the existing freeway infrastructure.

The project would affect the Canyon, which is the portion of Interstate 30 that extends south of downtown; the Mixmaster, the Interstate 30 and Interstate 35E interchange in the western portion of downtown; and Lower Stemmons, Interstate 35E from the Mixmaster to SH 183 in West Dallas.

The Trinity Toll Road Project involves building a toll road that extends between the Trinity River levees west of Interstate 35. Both are planned, and both would alleviate traffic –– the question is how much.

Rawlings’s interpretation of the data makes it appear that the toll road will be more effective than the improvements.

Rawlings says TxDOT’s study found the toll road would move 132,000 vehicles per day whereas the Pegasus Project would help 93,000 vehicles. He says it’s clear the toll road is the best use of public money.

“It said this is going to be the best use of our taxpayers’s dollars and that’s what I wanted to focus on,” Rawlings told KRLD’s Mitch Carr.

But supporters of the Pegasus Project, like Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs, believe Rawlings looked at the data incorrectly.

He says the mayor’s perspective is not based on comparing the two projects independently, but instead as projects that would happen simultaneously.

“The question before us is which project to do first and when you take that data, which was provided by TxDOT, you reach a different conclusion that Pegasus is going to move more cars faster and provide more congestion relief for less money,” Griggs said.

Griggs contends that Pegasus should be a priority, because it deals with the congestion in and around the city.

“The Canyon, including the service roads, is only 12 lanes, Project Pegasus will take that to 20 lanes. It adds capacity also to Lower Stemmons where we need it the most,” Griggs said.

Mayor Rawlings agrees Dallas needs both projects, but he says the toll road, which would connect the old Texas Stadium area to 175 in Dallas, should come first.

“It will move traffic from southeast to northwest where there is a great deal of traffic, and eventually I want to make sure it connects to 35 so it really kind of bypasses all of downtown,” Rawlings said.

Both projects will cost more than a billion dollars each. But Griggs says if the city moves forward with the Trinity Toll Road, there won’t be any more money to fix the Canyon.

“We’re in a time period where we have limited funds for transportation projects and these are two big projects,” Griggs said.

Mayor Rawlings isn’t worried about the funding, “because it’ll be a toll road I think this is going to be more feasable to receive the rest of the funding at the state level, at the federal level and, really, at the private level as well.”

The toll road will not be going anywhere just yet, because the Federal Government and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers still hasn’t given their blessing yet.

But Griggs says he, along with his fellow council members Angela Hunt and Sandy Grayson, aren’t giving up on Pegasus yet.

“We think when the public looks at the data and the charts we’ve put together, they’ll see that Project Pegasus, one, costs less, $1.2 billion versus $1.47 billion, they’ll see that it moves more cars and they’ll see that it relieves the congestion in the Canyon and Lower Stemmons,” Griggs said.

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