House panel OKs $882 million for Trinity River project
06:47 AM CDT on Friday, July 30, 2010
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER and TOM BENNING / The Dallas Morning News
The Trinity River flood control and parks project will cost a lot more than Dallas officials thought just three years ago.
Congress authorized $459 million in 2007 for the Trinity River Floodway, a massive public works effort the city hopes will transform downtown Dallas and the river itself.
On Thursday, a House committee approved a bill that includes $882 million, nearly twice the original amount.
The money from 2007 hasn't been spent, because the project – along with a controversial $2 billion or more toll road – has been on hold since early last year, when the Army Corps of Engineers said the Trinity River levees were no longer reliable.
Since then, the city has scrambled to address the deficiencies identified by the corps and has insisted that once those fixes are made, the larger Trinity River project will be back on track.
But it's clear now that the delays have been costly for the Trinity River project, often called the most ambitious in the city's history.
The city says it needs $882 million from Congress to complete the project, largely because of tougher flood control standards from the corps, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said Thursday.
So far, Johnson has come through for the city, steering the request through a House committee where it passed as part of a $6 billion water resources bill.
“It's a start,” she said of the victory in the committee. The bill must also be approved by the full House and beyond.
Inflation has caused the price of the project to jump $81.2 million, she said.
“Any time you put something off, costs are going to go up,” she said.
The Trinity River project entails dozens of improvements along the river, including new lakes and a new meandering course for the river.
City leaders also hope it will make room for a high-speed six-lane toll road. The road has been the focus of acrimony since well before City Council member Angela Hunt led a failed attempt in 2007 to scale it down to a non-tolled boulevard she said would be more in keeping with the overall project.
The road may not be built anyway, given a lack of funding for it, but like nearly everything else near the river it has been on hold while the city works to address problems with the levees.
It wasn't immediately clear Thursday night whether any of the money included in the 2010 bill, should it become law, could be used to help offset the city's expenses.
Meanwhile, Johnson's office said in a written statement that the city initially requested the additional funding, following new cost estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“This increase in authorization was requested by the city of Dallas due to new cost estimates for the project. These estimates are based on more detailed engineering by the corps, refined post-Katrina guidance from the corps, and an adjustment for inflation,” she said.
The corps' project manager for the Trinity could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In addition to inflation in the years since the cost estimates were first made in 2003, Johnson said in an interview, the new money is needed to cover the following:
•$40.2 million for levee raises, seepage and stability measures
•$211.5 million for lake dams and erosion control
•$88.5 million for two new pump stations
•$1.4 million for rehabilitation for a third pump station
The bill containing the increase passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday and provides $6 billion to authorize navigation, flood prevention and environmental restoration projects by the corps.