I-345 in Dallas, which separates downtown from Deep Ellum. Munn Harris Architects

Transportation

I-345 Back on CNU’s ‘Freeways Without Futures’ List

The downtown highway has become a perennial on the Congress for the New Urbanism's roundup of urban freeways that could be transformed into boulevards

On the heels of that New York Times report on the proliferation of highway removal projects in U.S. cities, the Congress for the New Urbanism has released its almost annual list of “Freeways Without Future.” Dallas’ I-345 has become a perennial on the list after first being featured back in 2014. The 2021 list has expanded to include 15 roads, including I-35 in Austin and I-244 in Tulsa– a reflection, perhaps, of how the idea of urban highway removal has taken hold throughout the country ahead of expected new federal funding for such projects.

The write-up on I-345 highlights the progress that has been made on the road, particularly since the release of the CityMap study, the follow-up Toole Design Group-led “Framework Plan,” and TxDOT’s ongoing work on the project. TxDOT will make its latest engineering studies public during a virtual meeting and two in-person sessions all set to take place on June 22. At those meetings, the agency is expected to present multiple options for the highway’s future.

As CNU points out, a “street network option” remains on the table:

The removal of the elevated highway would open up 375 acres of urban land for development—with the potential for walkable urban blocks and quality public spaces. The complete removal, a public investment estimated to cost between $100-$500m, would generate at least $2.5b in new property value, supporting both the city’s tax base and a growing economy as the resulting development would also create 39,000 new jobs.

The CNU also has an expanded list of 15 completed highway removal projects, though the list includes transportation infrastructure that ranges widely in scope and success. For example, Boston’s notorious Big Dig, which capped a highway running through the New England city’s downtown (at great expense and after notorious delays), is on the list alongside freeway removal poster children like San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway and Seoul’s Cheonggye Freeway. That juxtaposition, CNU says, is intended to offer a reminder that each project addresses a specific urban context and that compromises in the removal planning process often result in unintended consequences.

“In several of those cases, the predicted ‘carmageddon’ caused by the highway’s removal failed to manifest before replacement infrastructure was opened, which suggests that it was an unnecessary expense,” it says.

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