At the June 23, 2014, Richardson City Council meeting, city staff presented TxDOT's plans for a tolled express lane on US 75 between IH 635 and Allen. Both the staff presentation and the city council reaction were impotent.
After the jump, why.
First, the bulk of the staff presentation was showing slides prepared by TxDOT. It was as if TxDOT themselves were giving a sales pitch to the Richardson City Council. After fourteen such slides, the city staff presented just two of their own slides, labeled "Initial Review Comments" and "Next Steps." The review consisted of just four minor criticisms: a demand for an entrance/exit to the tolled lanes in Richardson; a demand that landscaping lost as a result of widening the highway be restored; a demand that paint on existing walls be maintained; and a demand that toll revenue be used for traffic accident response management. There were no strategies or tactics for achieving Richardson's vision as opposed to TxDOT's vision other than attending TxDOT public meeting and workgroup meetings, monitoring progress and evaluating the alternatives; in other words, watching TxDOT's steamroller do its thing.
The City Council members' reaction was similarly impotent. Steve Mitchell complained about the lack of entrance/exits in Richardson. He also gave his opinion that TxDOT's revenue projections are off. Mark Solomon complained that the pain of a year of construction for an interim solution wasn't worth the gain. Mayor Maczka summarized the council's opinion: "This is not something that we're jumping up and down about." She urged all the council members to attend the upcoming TxDOT public hearing: "Be very vocal because that's how these things get changed."
This last suggestion was richly ironic. Just a few weeks ago, Mayor Maczka presided over a city public hearing regarding rezoning Palisades Village to add hundreds of additional apartments. Even though the public turned out in large numbers and were very vocal in an effort to change things, Mayor Maczka and a majority of the council rejected their wishes. Now, Mayor Maczka says do the same thing with TxDOT and expect a different result. The mayor is willfully blind to recent history if she believes that strategy will be effective.
Personally, I don't know how to influence TxDOT. I don't know what will prevent TxDOT from widening US 75. It's obvious that the city council doesn't either. But instead of brainstorming tactics that the city could take, instead of tasking the city staff to present possible tactics to stop TxDOT, the city council wasted their council work session time complaining to each other. Maybe there's nothing that can be done, but I expect more from a city council. I expect them to develop the best game plan possible, even if the odds are long, to achieve the city's vision regarding US 75, not have a gripe session. That's what blogs are for. ;-)