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Accusations Fly At Dallas City Hall Over Trinity Toll Road Project

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - More than a decade in the making and construction hasn't even started on the voter-approved Trinity toll road in Dallas.

On Wednesday, accusations were flying at city hall over the project.

Council member Philip Kingston accused Mayor Mike Rawlings of lying about the proposed toll road and slamming the brakes on any debate over it.

Councilman Kingston called a news conference to discuss the issue, after he says the mayor told council members not to debate the project or any other issue brought up during open mic sessions, when the public brings up a topic that's not on the agenda.

Kingston says he signed up as a public speaker during today's council meeting, so he could discuss the toll road. But Kingston didn't get the chance because the city attorney says it's against state law for a council member, who's part of the governing body, to address council in that way.

The nine-mile toll road would run from I-35E and State Highway 183 north of downtown between the Trinity River levees to US Highway 175 south of downtown.

(credit: CBS 11 News)

"Isn't it instructive that the first time this issue has ever come up of council members not being able to respond to open mic speakers and being able to speak at the open mic happened in relationship to this topic?" asked Kingston. "He wants to squelch debate on this topic."

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins explained council meeting procedures this way, "If you want to put something on the agenda, you just brief it and talk about it. That's what policy is, that's protocol. So we need to follow the rules.  We have the city secretary and attorney tell us there are rules and we're going to follow them."

Mayor Rawlings, who is in Washington, DC, issued a statement saying, "The Dallas City Council follows state open meetings laws regarding public notification of matters to be discussed and debated around the horseshoe. We will bring the Trinity Parkway to the council for discussion when there is something to vote on."

Planning for the proposed Trinity toll road is on-going, but there is still about a $1 billion dollar shortfall in funding.

Earlier this month, Democratic state lawmaker Rafael Anchia of Dallas filed a bill that would kill the toll road project.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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