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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Officially Behind Trinity River Parkway

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Wednesday, Mayor Mike Rawlings threw his support behind the controversial Trinity Parkway tollroad, which is designed to be built inside the flood plain.

It's been debated for nearly 20 years, and on two occasions voters have OK'd money to build it.

But a toll road in Dallas' Trinity River Bottoms is still on the drawing board. However, Wednesday's backing marks the first time Rawlings has voiced an opinion publicly about the project.

"We must stop talking and get it done now," the mayor said during an afternoon news conference in the Dallas City Hall flag room.

Calling it a vital link between Dallas' northern and southern sectors, Mayor Rawlings deemed a proposal called Plan 3-C the easiest, quickest way to get the parkway built. Though with a $1.4 billion price tag, funding hasn't been worked out.

"We'll talk about how we'll look at the sources and uses of this project, and plan to get that money in the coming months," he said.

Rawlings feels the project, which would connect Interstate 35E north of downtown with Interstate 45 to the south, will take away 25 percent of the daily gridlock of traffic in the downtown canyon.

And despite concerns several years ago about its impact on the safety of the levees, Col. Richard Muraski, Jr. with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told CBS 11 News those levees are more resilient than first thought.

"Once an alternative is selected we will exercise our authority and our role to make sure that the toll way does not interfere with the function of the levee," Mursaki said.

"They were unbelievably cautious," said Rawlings of the Corps. "They spent an amazing bit of engineering know-how, we brought in independent sources as well, and they said this is feasible."

Moving the project along got support from downtown business interests. Downtown Dallas, Inc., has not taken a formal stand on Rawlings' remarks, but CEO John Crawford says the Trinity is vital.

"Redeveloping the Trinity is a game-changer. It's a multi-billion dollar project that's going to be the biggest public-private works project since DFW Airport."

DFW's Jeff Fagin was among the dignitaries in attendance.

Standing in front of attendees Wednesday, Rawlings showed he had the support of most current councilmembers. But not all, including Scott Griggs, Angela Hunt and Sandy Greyson.

"No one else in the world has put a billion dollar road in a floodway system," Hunt told CBS 11 News.  "This is an experiment that I don't think should be done in the city of Dallas."

Greyson, who was serving a dozen years ago when an earlier council took up the issue, agreed.

"This is more of the same and actually nothing has changed. There still isn't any money for this project," she said.

The North Texas Tollway Authority is having a public hearing regarding the road next week.

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