FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth’s $1.1 billion river re-routing project will now likely face an independent review.
The Tarrant Regional Water District’s board of directors voted Tuesday to support a program review of the Trinity River Vision, while also pushing back against suggestions there was any malfeasance.
“This is an unfair deal, to a certain extent,” said board member Jim Lane. “Nobody’s trying to hide anything.”
The project to cut a new channel in the Trinity River and create an island north of downtown Fort Worth has faced scrutiny in the past for ballooning costs and construction delays.
This month Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called for an audit and possible scale back of the project after learning it did not receive funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2018. City council members publicly backed the request, suggesting the city could potentially hold back on a vote to extend a tax increment finance district needed in order to issue bonds for an additional $250 million in funding.
The vote Tuesday was just a step in the process to start a review. The Trinity River Vision Authority will meet next week. Staff has already indicated it will support any request for more information from partners.
It was not immediately clear what the scope of the review would be, although it could include the size of the project, its management and the likelihood of securing nearly $500 million in promised federal funding for the flood control portion of the work.
When asked Tuesday if the TRWD or TRVA had developed a plan to secure the funding in future years, after being left out this year, Lane said he was relying on Congresswoman Kay Granger.
“She’s as tough as they come, as smart as they come,” he said. “If she says the funding will be available, I’ll bet on the funding will be available.”
Granger’s office did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Former board member Mary Kelleher, who was critical of spending on the project during her time on the board, said she saw the review as a step in the right direction. However, she believed it would need to be detailed to make a difference.
“The public is demanding it, the city is demanding it, everyone is, so why just not do it?” she asked.
The meeting started Tuesday with TRWD General Manager Jim Oliver debunking what he called myths about the project, and any insinuation that Fort Worth officials might be out of the loop as to how the project was being managed.
“The city is very involved in this project,” he said. “The city manager is very involved in this project. The city council is very involved in this project.”