I’ve never seen a debate grow quite like this. When we started brainstorming our May cover package, “The Next Dallas Boom,” we were under the impression that tearing down Interstate 345 would still be a fairly foreign concept to many. After all, how many people really dive into a transportation story with vigor? It’s not necessarily a page-turner, unless, of course, you can explain the possibilities. Because, at the end of the day, the whole conversation is really about the possibilities. We’ve got the potential for $4 billion in development opportunity at stake, for starters. There’s a 94 percent occupancy rate downtown, which demonstrates a pretty solid demand for new development. Oh, and then there’s the chance to reunite neighborhoods and reinvigorate neglected parts of the city. And the best part of the whole situation? Other cities have already laid the groundwork. So, we thought, if we can show how successful other cities have been, we could provoke conversation and interest in the topic at home.
We flew in a highly regarded transportation engineer to take a look at Dallas and educate us on what other cities have done. Then Peter Simek went on the hunt for those specific examples and turned up “What Other Cities Learned.” Wick Allison put it all in perspective with “How to Build Another Uptown.” And Tim Rogers and Zac Crain took a look at our three specific opportunities: tear down I-345, bury I-30, and stand in the way of the Trinity Parkway. It should go without saying that Patrick Kennedy has been instrumental in the process. It’s about as comprehensive a package on the whole debate, including necessary context and perspective, that you’ll find.
As the issue was about to go to press, I sat staring at a blank screen, trying to decide what to say in my editor’s note for the magazine. We devoted 17 pages to the highway debate inside, so how much more could I add? We redesigned the magazine, but how much would people really want to read about it? And though Brantley Hargrove’s piece on “Earthquakes and the Texas Miracle” is an amazingly in-depth look at fracking and the shaking ground beneath Azle, I didn’t know that I could do it justice in the small space I had. (It’s a must-read, by the way.) So while I pondered all of this, my mind wandered, as it tends to, and ended up at SimCity.
Remember that computer game? I do. I used to play it on my uncle’s computer, building imaginary lands and watching a monster appear from virtually nowhere to mess it all up. But then I remembered something else. You had to build roads and battle the congestion those caused. So then you’d build more roads and eventually highways. And highways created problems. Life would flee as soon as soon as they were constructed. People would eventually trickle back but rarely to pre-highway levels. I never thought SimCity would have real-life relevance, or that I’d remember it all these years later, but alas, it does, and I do. The same thing has happened in America. Conventional thinking and highway design have ruined the American city. And downtown Dallas is no exception.
New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Chattanooga, Toronto—they’ve all paved the way, thinking outside the box, taking action. Now we need to make it our own.