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.