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Dallas is tired of spending millions to do TxDOT’s yard work, especially along Central

posted on Nov 10, 2015

Every now and then the Dallas City Council is reminded that it’s spending millions of dollars to do what the Texas Department of Transportation won’t — that is, mow and pick up trash along thousands of acres of TxDOT right-of-way in the city limits. And when that happens, the conversation always returns to one main topic of interest: the lousy landscaping along N. Central Expressway between LBJ Freeway and downtown, where, more often than not, it looks like a scene from Life After People.

This morning, after much hand-wringing, the council approved a three-year deal with Good Earth Corporation worth $9,464,660. The city won’t pay all of it, just most of it. Dennis Ware, director of Street Services, reminded the council that TxDOT will reimburse the city about $2,445,000 over the next three years.

But it’s growing increasingly clear that the council is growing tired of spending millions to clean up TxDOT’s mess. Even Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday morning that “TxDOT needs to step up.”

“When we’re dealing with TxDOT and our other transportation partners, we need to not get sold a bill of goods about who’s going to maintain what,” said council member Philip Kingston, who’d initially pulled the item off the consent agenda with Sandy Greyson and Jennifer Staubach Gates. Kingston said he was told by the director of Street Services the design of Central “is poor, and we’re stuck with it. It feels like we got hoodwinked by people who are supposed to be our transportation partners.”

City manager A.C. Gonzalez suggested that it’s time for the council to band together to get TxDOT’s attention.

“We certainly agree more help from the state is needed in this and other situations,” said the city manager. He said his staff will talk to TxDOT staff, but that’s not going to be enough. “It will be greatly appreciated if you’re in this as a team.”

As always, it was the poor state of Central’s greenery — well, brownery — that got the council’s attention.

Used to be N. Central was a pretty, green stretch of concrete — thanks, in large part, to an irrigation system TxDOT had running through the spine of U.S. 75. But then, as the council was once again reminded this morning, rats chewed up the tubing, the water was shut off, and the green turned brown. And after considering myriad options — including planting some wavy metal screens in the median — TxDOT went with the xeriscaping option.

“And the xeriscaping in a lot of cases looks like a bunch of weeds out there,” said Greyson. “I think we could make it look better.” (She said the same thing in 2012.)

So do other council members and the mayor, who this morning tasked Greyson and her Quality of Life Committee with finding a solution.

Ware said TxDOT’s once again talking about replacing the landscaping — some of it, at least. And TxDOT’s once again talking about installing some irrigation, which Lee Kleinman has no faith in following the last rat infestation. But long story short, said Greyson when talking about TxDOT: “This is money we could be spending on lots of other things because they’re not living up to their responsibilities.”