A programmatic review shows Panther Island, the real estate development boondoggle headed by the son of a congresswoman, has cost taxpayers over $383 million—with only its design phase finished.
Panther Island, conceived in 2003, seeks to reroute the Trinity River via a 1.5 mile bypass—and redevelop prime real estate—all under the guise of flood control. The Trinity River Vision Authority, headed by Congresswoman Kay Granger’s son, J.D. Granger, was the entity created to oversee coordination of the bypass channel, recreational amenities, and land redevelopment.
The project involves the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant Regional Water District, Texas Department of Transportation, Tarrant County, the federal government, and Granger’s Trinity River Vision Authority.
The project has been plagued with problems, delays, and cost overruns. It was originally estimated to cost $435 million, but that estimate has since ballooned, and taxpayers are now being asked to shell out over $1.168 billion. The exact price tag is still unknown as no construction aspect of the complicated project has been completed, according to TRVA documents. The Trump administration pulled all federal funding last year, putting completion at risk.
Part of the issue with federal funding is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “not permitted to spend federal dollars on local economic development […] .” Although the project does involve flood mitigation, via the proposed 1.5 mile bypass channel, its recreational and property redevelopment aspects have been sold to the area’s residents and unnamed developers who stand to profit on the backs of taxpayers.
Until the troubled project can restore federal support, the TRWD convinced voters to approve a $250 million debt proposal in 2018, which will keep Granger’s agency on life support, and will be repaid by local property taxpayers.
To help restore federal confidence, Dallas-based advisory firm Riveron was hired to perform a programmatic review of the project. Their findings show that from 2003 to October 2018, nearly $322 million from local taxpayers and over $61 million from federal taxpayers has been spent on the Panther Island project—without a single aspect of the construction phase completed.
The review also says the project is not expected to be completed until 2028, a full 25 years after its inception. For comparison, it took the Walt Disney Corporation six years to build and open Walt Disney World, from 1965-1971.
The TRVA has yet to undergo either a financial or forensic audit of where $383 million in taxpayer funds has been spent. Texas Scorecard will continue to report on details of the programmatic review and how the Panther Island redevelopment boondoggle is affecting taxpayers.