Dallas Better Act Fast if it Wants Federal Dollars to Remove Interstate 345

President Obama is announcing $600 million in grants that seem targeted for projects like tearing down a highway.

Tear down this road? Some think we should. Click through to read Patrick Kennedy's argument.  (photo by Scott Womack)
Tear down this road? Some think we should. Click through to read Patrick Kennedy’s argument. (photo by Scott Womack)

To recap: Patrick “Car-Free” Kennedy and Brandon Hancock hate Interstate 345, the 1.4-mile elevated freeway that connects U.S. Highway 75 to Interstates 30 and 45 in downtown Dallas. They’ve been advocating, since at least 2012, that the city needs to get rid of it. They grandly call their plan A New Dallas.

Last year in D Magazine, Kennedy wrote that Dallas is throwing away $4 billion if it allows the state transportation department to repair IH-345. He argued that a teardown would free up land for development that would better connect the CBD to Deep Ellum. Some local voices, including architecture critic Mark Lamster of the Morning News, joined their cause. Lamster wrote that I-345 acts as “a noose that segregates the urban core from the rest of the city, suppressing its vitality and economic prospects.” But traffic engineers at the Texas Department of Transportation are apparently deaf to such pleas. Earlier this month, TxDOT confirmed that it plans to repair I-345, giving it at least another 25 years of life.

Only that’s not the end of the story. As Lamster noted a couple weeks back, the tear-out proposal isn’t dead. Mayor Mike Rawlings has said the plan deserves more consideration. City Councilman Philip Kingston says the council is open to ideas like the New Dallas plan. D Magazine is hosting a discussion about the future of the road this Thursday at our office. And Kennedy and Hancock are still working for their cause:

the activists behind the tear-out plan, have begun working to build momentum with the city’s various corporate and political leaders, and also with the general public, in an effort to pressure TxDOT to reconsider its decision. Their organization, A New Dallas, is now registered as a non-profit, and is taking donations to fund a study that would demonstrate the feasibility of a tear out, proving both its economic viability and that it will not create the traffic nightmare so many legitimately fear.

Today brings word about new federal dollars for a project like this becoming available. In St. Paul, Minnesota, President Obama is going to launch a competition for $600 million in grants for transportation projects nationwide. It’s the sixth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which so far have resulted in giving $3.5 billion to 270 projects. (UPDATE: The Transportation Department has announced the deadline for applying is April 28.)

Even better news for anti-I-345 advocates, the 2014 TIGER program seems ideal for their proposal, since the White House has stated that this round of funding will give priority to “projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs, school, and other opportunities, promote neighborhood revitalization and business expansion, and reconnect neighborhoods that are unnaturally divided by physical barriers such as highways and railroads.”

I added the emphasis to that quote. If they want a share of that money, Dallas leaders will need to decide fast whether this teardown is what they want to do.

Comments

  • Greg Brown

    And just where are the crush of vehicles that travel up 45 to 75 every Mon-Fri going to go? I am open to any plan that will improve traffic flow and allow a more accessible and open downtown. But what is the plan beyond tearing down the bridge to handle the existing traffic?

    • Alexander

      That traffic isn’t headed downtown and it’s much less than what you provably think. Please check out the newdallas website, they break it all down. Most of the traffic is going past Dallas, it can take routes around the city. The traffic headed downtown can switch exits, off 30 or Woodall depending on their direction. It might add 35 seconds to their commute.

      Someone going from A Maceo Smith to the Lake Highlands YMCA (a trip I have done!) is going to have change their mindset- maybe take LBJ, maybe take Chavez or Fitzhugh between highways. Those streets are well below capacity and can handle the traffic, heck it might improve the streets. It’ll add a couple of minutes per trip- but most likely the trips will disappear.

    • CurtRog

      You make the proposal sound like there’s no other way to get around, like they’re removing a section of tracks on a single train route. The nice thing about vehicles is the ability to adjust the route. There’s no doubt that it will be a headache for some people at the beginning, but this is a long term solution. If there’s no 345, people will live closer to work or find a way to use transit. Please stop talking about traffic.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    The 1967 official TxDOT highway map for Dallas included a limited access highway running from I-35E (Stemmons) & Wycliff through Oak Lawn, the M Streets, Lower Greenville and Lakewood to connect to I-30 east of downtown. If it had been built, I’m sure it would have carried even more traffic than I-45. Yet it wasn’t built, and somehow the traffic manages to get where it needs to go… Dallas didn’t collapse.

  • Tim Rogers

    Am I missing it? Where is the deadline to compete for these TIGER grants?

  • Greg Brown

    Ask any resident on Mockingbird in the Park Cities where the through traffic goes. So. . . .the 345 bridge comes down. A smaller grade-level road is put in it’s place with 4-6 traffic lights between 45 and 75. Through traffic chokes east downtown every morning and evening. How is this an improvement?

  • Joe

    “proving both its economic viability and that it will not create the traffic nightmare so many legitimately fear.”

    Here is the problem. Kennedy believes that less capacity is a feature, not a fault of his plan. He would like it to be less convenient to drive to Dallas because that would force more people to live in the Dallas CBD, use public transportation, etc. And I think he is right about that. But it comes at a cost to the people who still would prefer to commute in, and I think it is wrong to pretend like that wouldn’t be the result of his plan.

    Kennedy’s plan was basically to throw all that traffic onto the existing side streets. He says they can handle it because the overall daily capacity is there. But he doesn’t account for the fact that the vast majority of cars going into or out of the CBD are all on the road in between the hours of 7:30 and 9:00 and 5:30 and 7:30. The side streets cannot handle the traffic during those hours. Pointing to the fact that side streets are under capacity for an entire 24 hour period, which is based on the fact that there are basically no cars on the road for several hours of the day, simply is a misdirection.

  • Tim Rogers

    Uh-oh.

  • B in TX

    How is what wasnt built 47 years ago relative to the question of how will the traffic be re-routed on this section of highway today? Has anyone from the ‘tear it down’ contingent ever answered that question? Where will all the 18 wheelers and the crush of cars exiting south to 45 from Woodall at 6pm go? I cannot understand the upside to moving all that traffic to surface streets. Deep Ellum will just be cut off from downtown by a constant stream of cars idling at traffic lights. Big improvement.

  • mr_lakewood

    Sure Klyde Warren is wonderful for the north side but then when it comes to the east side, we are exepected to accept a massive elevated highway.

  • dallasboiler

    I’d love to see I-345 go, but another potential flaw with removing it that I haven’t seen addressed is the city’s inability to deal with the added wear & tear on city streets.

    Just in the past week, much has been made at the city’s inability to deal with $0.9B of upgrades needed to Dallas’ city streets (the number escalates to $1.4B if you include work needed on alleys) which are needed now but are now unlikely to occur before 2018. The literally crumbling nature of city thoroughfares which would be made more vital by removal of I-345 (e.g., Peak and Haskell) could make such an ambitious project much less tenable. In my 18 years in Dallas, I’ve seen no demonstrated ability of City Hall or the City Council to place proper emphasis on basic infrastructure; and removing a TxDOT funded highway would only shine the light more brightly on the city’s shortcomings in this area.

    I just cannot envision City Hall being able to stand behind and fully support such a big, revolutionary change to the city. We voted on a proposition authorizing bond funds to transform the Trinity River in 1998 and 16 years later there’s only scant evidence of progress. Based on that empirical evidence, there’s no way that City Hall will put its full weight behind another project to be similarly transformative. The City Council (including the Mayor) may likely have all the right talking points to support it, but in the end they just don’t have enough power to control it.

  • Ed Woodson

    I can’t believe that people are seriously considering this. The idea that traffic will simply flow “through” CBD on side streets is insane. Now, if the new federal traffic $$ (which I doubt will ever actually come to fruition) actually was used to build a “better” highway, that was less of a barrier, then I’d be happy to consider it.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the fat that it is already elevated make it less of a barrier than a more traditional ground level highway? It creates a strip of land which can’t be otherwise developed (because you are driving under a highway), but that’s it.

  • Alexander

    How would it affect people going into the CBD? 45 and 75 will still go straight there– the two highways wont CONNECT, but hardly anyone makes that trip.

    Again, how will it affect a commuter to downtown Dallas?

  • Hambone

    There’s one underutilized argument that should bode well for Kennedy’s group: The freeway is old-looking and ugly. It will remain so after repairs by TXDOT. If we set aside the effectiveness of elevation in connecting real estate on either side of the road, the fact remains that most elevated freeways – especially this one – FEEL like yesterday’s product. Dallas is not a city that wants to lock in yesterday’s product. Our leadership and elites want bright and shiny, especially on the doorstep of downtown. If we can’t afford a shiny new freeway, those interests should pay closer attention to this proposal. It wouldn’t get us a better freeway, but it would get us shiny new buildings and townhomes.

  • Greg Brown

    You are drinking way too much of your own Koolaid.

  • Alexander

    An insult! I must be doing something right 😉

  • Greg Brown

    If you can only supply platitudes and hypotheticals, but no relevant data, then I would definately classify that as a Koolaid slaesman.

  • Greg Brown

    No, just an observation. If you can only supply platitudes and hypotheticals, but no relevant data, then I would definitely classify that as a Koolaid salesman.

  • Alexander

    I’m being asked for data? By whom?

  • Greg Brown

    By a citizen of Dallas who is interested in the actual numbers of how your “plan” will work.

  • Greg Brown

    If you don’t want to go over, and through is too disruptive, then that leaves “under.” Hmmmmmmmmm. . . . .

  • Alexander

    What is your question? I was responding to Joe…but also, I’m not Patrick Kennedy it’s not “my plan”. I suggest you look at their website though, lots of numbers there: http://anewdallas.com/

  • Monte Malone

    I understand the theory behind removing the elevated highway, but they talk as if there won’t by ANY roads there after removal. But there will still be roads. Where is all this development supposed to occur? Why is it not occurring now?

  • Monte Malone

    Fitzhugh? It’s a 2 lane nightmare.
    Every surface street in east Dallas would have to be rebuilt. Not repaved. Torn out and rebuilt to be able to accommodate the traffic.
    This would be good for the inner city. Property would become more useful, and valuable.
    It would be an opportunity to re-install streetcar lines as well, connecting to the train.

  • Dubious Brother

    Why not just close it for a week and see what happens?

  • GlennTheHunter

    Yes, please stop annoying us with all this talk about the effect on the common people. It’s really getting irritating. All you common people will have to do is 1.) sell or get out of your current abode and relocate somewhere closer to your work or 2.) give up driving your car, which you obviously do for selfish reasons anyway. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Once you do these things, we can all start enjoying the urban nirvana that these guys (who prefer walking or riding bicycles) have plotted out for us peons.

  • Brandon

    Greg – the website answers all of your questions that you are asking here on this blog. It also provides data and studies to back up the validity of their plan. Take the time to read it.

  • Greg Brown

    Maybe in 25 years when the new repairs are at the end of their life Dallas will 1) have a coordinated road maintenance program, 2) traffic light technology from at least the 1990’s 3) light rail to Corsicana and 4) dedicated roads/lanes for heavy trucks to bypass the city. I see no wisdom in the traffic version of “Destroy it and They Will Leave” now.

  • Cardinal Puff

    This proposal is from the anti car, new urbanist contingent. Just as an old suburbanist, I fault their failure to study the traffic that uses the overpass and has nothing to do with a trip beginning or ending inside Loop 12. Old enough to have made this drive before there was an overpass. The overpass created real benefit to motorists and moved people over blight which had then been developing for at least a generation.

    • WalkableDFW

      I’m not anti-car. I’m anti- car-dependence, which undermines choice, opportunity, and adaptability of the city. DFW is tied for the most car-dependent major US city tied with Detroit, which by the way has effectively cured congestion…by killing the city, larding it up with expensive magic bullets, legacy costs, and infrastructure while shipping out tax base. Sound familiar?

    • James the P3

      I understand this point, to a large extent. But if you have a trip that begins and ends outside of Loop 12, you have far more options for freeway transit because 635 is a viable option. If you are starting from Medical City at Forest Lane and 75 and going to Corsicana–and I’m sure somebody probably does that from time to time–your direct route is obviously via I-345. But you do have other options. You can take Forest to the DNT and go via I-30 to I-45. You can loop around via I-635 to get to I-45. Or if the road didn’t exist, you could just get off and use the surface streets for the two miles to transit from the end of Central Expressway to the beginning of I-45. Using either option, your additional travel time is pretty marginal compared to your overall drive. At worst, you’re adding five minutes to an hour-long drive.

      The people who are really affected–both positively and negatively–are those living within Loop 12.

  • CurtRog

    If someone drives from the northern suburbs (e.g. McKinney, Plano) to I-45, they should take LBJ, and not go near the city center. This is only one case, but it benefits other roads in Dallas (Central Expressway, Julius Schepps), not just the downtown area. A city center should have roads leading to it, not through it. Maybe I should clarify that I think this would be good for the city of Dallas, not necessarily everyone who wants to pass through.

  • Bobtex

    Before there was an overhead highway, there were ordinary streets named Pearl Expressway, Central Expressway, and Good-Latimer Expressway that were precisely what the new urbanist nerds (NUNs, if you please) are proposing for that area. They connected the expressways north and south of downtown on the city streets. They grew into congested nightmares, and the overhead was built to solve the problems they created. Now, the NUNs want to take us back to those horrible days of yore. I don’t know by how many multiples the traffic travelling through that area has increased since then, but I do know that it has. Anyone who has lived around here long enough can tell you why the Crosstown Expressway was never completed, and why the Roseland extension of Woodall Rodgers was never built–the folks who lived in those neighborhoods did not want those extra cars travelling through their neighborhoods. And they were right. The same objections will be made to a neighborhood streets proposal for I-345 traffic, and they will be valid as well. Keep searching for solutions, NUNs, but this time come up with something that does not have the catastrophic consequences of a teardown without an alternative.

    • Hambone

      Property values along sidestreets would benefit from more traffic. It needs help, and it doesn’t help that there’s no commerce there. This would get eyeballs on it.

    • mr_lakewood

      I remember the days before the elevated freeway and traffic did back up going through there…however, it was not the nightmare that you describe.

  • Mavdog

    There is no disagreement with the idea of removing the elevated freeway due to the barrier it presents and the negative aesthetics inherent in a structure of its type. The improved flow of people and commerce between the CBD and Deep Ellum is also undeniable. Yes, property values and new development will result if the highway is removed. This flow and new investment will not likely ever be realized if the highway remains as it currently exists.
    However unless a viable solution is provided to address the 170,000 vehicles a day that use this highway the its removal is impossible to endorse. The suggesttion made by “A New Dallas” that the vehicles will just disperse onto underutilized feeder roads and other highways is absurd. The increased load onto I-30 and I-35, both of which currently cannot handle the volume of traffic at peak times, will result in even more delays and congestion at peak times.
    When a solution to where the 170,000 VPD can be routed is offered I’d be glad to support the removal of I-345. Take it underground? Something to replace the artery, otherwise it is too critical to our community’s traffic flow to do without.

  • Patrick Kennedy

    We’re not building a wall. That mistake was made years ago. We’re proposing to tear that wall down.

  • Patrick Kennedy

    I have a copy of Nola’s successful application. Though I’m hearing they now like city’s with more skin in the game already like Rochester that already had the engineering done just needed the capital.

  • WalkableDFW

    Further passing the buck is not the answer when both the city and state are way behind in debt and deferred maintenance.

  • WalkableDFW

    I suggest you watch the youtube video of the upcoming presentation. We have the best traffic engineer in the country in town.

  • BGBG

    What you have right now is the ILLUSION of choice. You think you’re choosing to live where you want and drive a car, when that is your ONLY choice due to infrastructure as it exists in Dallas.

  • TheBlaydes

    There seems to be 35 million in planning funding available. Is there any way to apply for that money to have the engineering and planning done? The repairs for 345 aren’t scheduled to start for several years. Perhaps this is an opportunity to further justifying the idea, before TxDOT moves forward.

  • Alexander

    It’s a shame you view part of our downtown as forever and always “blight”.

  • Ed Woodson

    Oddly, thousands of cars actually use the highway every day.

  • James the P3

    I think this is a multifaceted answer.

    With respect to the 18-wheelers, a first point needs to be made: There aren’t that many 18-wheelers on that road. I say that looking out at that road from my office as I type, and having looked at that road every day for the past several years. There simply is not that much truck traffic going from Houston to McKinney. Truck traffic heading north from Houston generally proceeds north via I-35, and it uses I-30 to get to I-35, not I-345 to Woodall Rogers. That connection would obviously remain in place. To the extent there is truck traffic traveling from Houston to McKinney, it should be encouraged to use I-635 so as to reduce congestion in the Dallas city center. That’s true regardless of what we do with I-345.

    With respect to car traffic, there are innumerable other routes that are equally convenient. If you live along Central Expressway, you can just as easily take the DNT or 635 to get to I-45 south of downtown. If you really want to go through that area, then you can use surface streets. And that’s what the property owners would love for you to do, as that drive-by advertisement gives their tenants increased visibility.

    Dallas has a ton of road connections spreading out from Downtown. But this one serves a very limited purpose–probably more limited than virtually any other highway in the Metroplex. Its elimination would probably inconvenience some people, but that inconvenience would be marginal compared to the benefits.

  • James the P3

    I think he means Fitzhugh/Wycliff between the DNT and Central Expressway, which is a pretty underutilized route.

  • mr_lakewood

    Completion of the Haskell Boulevard as originally planned from West Village/City Place to Fair Park would help, along with a trolley down the middle. This would also revitalize the last pieces of urban decay in East Dallas and around Fair Park.

  • Cardinal Puff

    Medical City to Corsicana as an example is fine. You are easily adding 15-20 minutes with the Tollway option and longer with the 635 loop. Way more than five minutes. People who live outside Loop 12 and use this route regularly should be given the same consideration. Urban elites should not have more votes. The downtown blight pre-existed the elevation. People were just stuck at lights and had more time to partake in the experience.

  • Philip Goss

    Wait – the citizens of Dallas shouldn’t have any say so over what happens in THEIR city?

  • Bug Menot

    Lakewood is a thriving close-in neighborhood separated from downtown Dallas by a freeway, But we should tear down the freeway because Deep Ellum, a place that was once a hip area with many bars, has fallen on hard times.