"Just to mention the word Katrina is very frightening – It’s frightening to me. … And the last thing I want to see is flooding all of downtown and commercial area on Stemmons. …I do think that is a real risk. … It is not a joke. We really are concerned."

That quote is not from cranks like Schutze and I, who have opposed the foolishness that is the Trinity toll road since the runup to the 2007 referendum. It’s not from M Streets councilwoman Angela Hunt, who engineered the referendum to block the toll road. It’s from U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, who has supported the toll road since its inception and has been been leading the fight for federal highway money to pay for the damned thing.

Which means, after three years of debate, it looks like we can finally bury the toll road. More, after the jump.

Johnson’s quote is at the end of a story in Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper, featuring several cryptic quotes from Mayor Park Cities about how some parts of the Trinity project may have to be delayed. "Clearly, as opportunities and challenges come up we will continue to meet, determine their impact on the project, and make any decisions that we all feel are best for the safety and future of our city," he was quoted as saying.

In other words, the mayor has finally realized that the toll road won’t be built just because he thinks it should be built. It’s not quite as succinct as the statement from Trinity project official Rebecca Rasor on KERA on Wednesday, but it will do.

Apparently, several things have happened over the past several months to change his mind:

• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t back down from its evaluation that the Trinity River levees are unsafe, even before the toll road is taken into account. This comes despite what Schutze has said was intense lobbying from Leppert and city manager Mary Suhm to get the Corps to change its mind.

• There isn’t any federal money to pay for the toll road, and there isn’t going to be, given the political climate in Washington. "That lemon has been squeezed," Johnson told The Morning News.

• The city’s financial woes are forcing Leppert and Suhm to choose between paying Dallas’ share of the various parts of Trinity project and cutting essential city services in the next budget. How many cops won’t have to be laid off if the city eliminates the $1.25 million it spends on Trinity Corridor project planning?

The proof of this will come in a couple of months, when Suhm offers the first look at the 2010-11 budget. That’s when we’ll know for sure that the toll road is dead.

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