Monday, May 10, 2010

Election Leftovers

On May 8, Richardson voters approved four bond proposals totalling $66 million. The proposals all passed by comfortable margins, but smaller than any Richardson bond election in memory. There are different explanations for the smaller than usual margins, from growing resistance to tax increases in general, to the tough economy in particular, to a protest against perceived failings of city staff and city council, to doubts about some of the projects themselves. I voted for the bonds, but that doesn't mean I don't still have a few reservations myself.

After the jump, my top three issues remaining as the smoke of the election campaigning clears.

That so-called "bridge to nowhere."
Opponents argue that the Galatyn overpass extension has just one beneficiary -- Fossil Watch. A look at an aerial photo of the area suggests that might be true ... today. There's a lot of open land west of US 75, land ready for office construction someday that would benefit from that overpass extension. So, looking at the bigger picture, that overpass could be a boon to further development along US 75 in Richardson. Unfortunately, the suggested road design looks to be handicapped by compromise.

A few years ago, to placate the local residential neighborhood, the city closed off access to N Collins Blvd from Renner Rd to the north. Now the city plans to build an awkward, twisting access ramp that ensures access to N Collins Blvd from US 75 to the east will be just as difficult as from the north. The city's current plans for the Galatyn overpass extension will limit the city's options later, when that development on the west side of US 75 takes off, and the city realizes that a north-south reliever road on the west is needed. In contrast, look how the city did it on the other side of US 75, building nice clean access to the new Routh Creek Parkway from both Renner Rd and Glenville Dr.

An example of how yesterday's compromises become today's problems is the fact that pedestrian access wasn't included in the original bridge as a concession to cost. There will still be no pedestrian access to the overpass even after the extension is built. The city says it continues to seek funding for a separate pedestrian overpass. The cost of that will surely be larger than the cost of accomodating pedestrians in the first place would have been.

That fire station next to a playground.
Much has been made about the location of new Fire Station #4. At the site of the old Huffhines Recreation Center, it will have a school to the east, a playground to the south, and ball fields to the west. Opponents say fire trucks and emergency vehicles will be slowed by the presence of children and children's safety and lives will be put at risk.

The city argues that safety concerns are exaggerated. The city touts the benefits of a more centrally located site to better balance emergency response times across all the neighborhoods the station serves. All that is probably true. Still, it would be reassuring to learn what other locations were considered. What criteria were used to make the selection? How did the new location score against alternative sites? Because the sneaking suspicion remains that the location was chosen more because of the availability of the land than because this was the ideal spot to put a fire station.

Those streets for UT-Dallas.
Much has been made about the fact that the bond proposal includes millions of dollars for streets on the UT-Dallas campus. Critics predictably complained that UT-Dallas should pay for and build its own roads.

The city explained that this is part of a swap, with the city receiving long-term leases for land on which to build a water tower and additional soccer fields. Critics contend UT-Dallas already leases other nearby land to the city for $1 per year and that the city recently voluntarily relinquished leases on the land it is now touting as being part of a new swap. If true, what did UT-Dallas receive in compensation for such generous leases it gave the city? What did Richardson receive in exchange for giving up some of the leases? The critics haven't convinced me that nefarious motives are at play here. Still, the city hasn't provided near enough details about the quid pro quo to rebut the conspiracy theorists, either. It doesn't seem to be too much to ask.

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