Tomorrow folks from the Texas Department of Transportation are going to brief the Dallas City Council about the options for dealing with I-345. Today, the Dallas Morning News published an editorial titled “Dallas, Beware TxDOT’s Alternative for I-345.” The subhead: “Can our city afford another deck park?”
The editorial is drivel.
Matt Goodman wrote back in June about this whole deal, when TxDOT presented its options to the Transportation Committee. That post offers a good primer of what to expect for tomorrow. None of that is new. What’s new is the paper coming out for the status quo. The editorial board argues that we should leave the highway standing, rather than follow TxDOT’s preferred course of lowering the highway in a trench.
I don’t want to get into all the details here. I don’t want to point out that spending $650 million to rebuild the elevated highway seems dumb when it would cost just another $350 million—all of it TxDOT’s money—to put it in a canyon, which would free up more developable land that would generate more tax revenue. I don’t want to point out that lowering highways improved neighborhood connections at Woodall Rodgers and Central Expressway and the Southern Gateway, that everyone agrees it will do the same when we lower I-30. I don’t want to point out that it doesn’t matter if we can’t afford a deck park over I-345, that lowering it would still be a huge improvement, that, in any case, a developer could come in and build right on top of the lowered highway because TxDOT has said it will engineer the project’s foundation to accommodate that sort of construction.
Forget all that. There’s just one detail in the DMN editorial I want to focus on. TxDOT’s plan for lowering 345 includes bridges with 10-foot-wide sidewalks. The editorial says: “What will it cost to widen sidewalks beyond baseline sizes?”
The newspaper of record in a large American city is trying to gin up fear over the cost of sidewalks. Sorry. Wide sidewalks.
I mean, listen. We’re talking about sidewalks. Not a highway. Not a highway. Not a highway. We’re talking about sidewalks. Not a highway. We’re talking about sidewalks, man.
The question, then, is why would the paper make such a patently ridiculous point? This is speculation, but I believe the answer lies in this passage of the editorial: “Trenching the highway will also affect existing amenities. Plans that TxDOT showed earlier this year would require a portion of the recently opened $20 million Carpenter Park that is in the right of way to be demolished and rebuilt. TxDOT has made it clear that it won’t pay for reconstruction, which means the city will be responsible. The park was paid for with $20 million in public and private funds, including a contribution from Parks for Downtown Dallas, a nonprofit founded by Robert Decherd, chairman of DallasNews Corporation.”
Carpenter Park is really cool. But if a tiny part of it has to be cut off for the greater good, Decherd will survive the injury.