Thanks to images of lakes and sailboats, in 1998 Dallas voters narrowly approved a $246 million bond package to transform the Trinity River Corridor into a beautiful urban park.

Unfortunately, for nearly a decade, the centerpiece of the Trinity River Project — the Downtown Trinity Park — has sat idle. While the lakes and parks we were promised languish, the City of Dallas is planning a high-speed, six-lane toll road inside the Trinity River levees. If you’re wondering where that is, it’s down in the river basin between the green hills (levees) that protect our city from flooding — the same location the Downtown Trinity Park is planned.

This project has fundamentally changed from what voters approved. Back in 1998, the Trinity Parkway was envisioned as a low-speed reliever route that would provide access to the park. Over the last decade, the “Parkway” has grown into a high-speed, six-lane toll road that provides no access to the park. It is now more than $600 million over budget, and construction has not even begun. The current price tag is over $1 billion, and is certain to climb even higher.

Because the toll road will be built within our floodway levees, the toll road will flood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not aware of any major road, anywhere in the country, that is built in a floodway. Recently, the toll road was moved away from the levees and pushed even farther into the park because the Corps was concerned that the road would weaken our levees.

In February, we learned that the North Texas Tollway Authority (an unelected group that will construct and own the road) will lobby the federal government to allow them to build the road to pre-Katrina safety standards, instead of the more stringent regulations being developed in response to the disaster in New Orleans. Further, the Tollway Authority offers no guarantees that the toll road will not be sold to a foreign company.

All of these changes will have dramatic effects on our recreational amenities. According to the City, the toll road will eliminate one-third of the Downtown Trinity parkland, as well as reduce the size of our lakes. The toll road will provide no direct access to the park, and the noise and pollution from the toll road will certainly discourage families from enjoying this green space. Who wants to picnic next to a toll road?

While other cities are removing major highways that are barriers to their parks and waterfronts, Dallas is poised to ruin an historic opportunity to create a great recreational amenity for our city. When the next large corporation decides to relocate, what will persuade them to choose Dallas over some other city? Another toll road, or the premier urban park in the nation?

Because the political leadership in our city refuses to bring accountability to this project, we believe it is time for voters to reclaim what has become a billion dollar boondoggle. To that end, we are working with TrinityVote — a grassroots coalition of concerned residents — to place a referendum on the ballot in November so that YOU can vote on whether to move the toll road out of the park. To do so, we must collect 50,000 signatures from registered Dallas voters.

Reclaiming the Trinity River project depends on your support and involvement. We will be collecting referendum petition signatures at polling locations during the upcoming mayoral election, and need volunteers. Sign up to volunteer and learn more at trinityvote.com or call us at 214.586.7275. Tell your friends and neighbors. Together, we can make a difference.