The Texas Department of Transportation believes the elevated I-345 highway should be buried in a trench between downtown and Deep Ellum, restoring connectivity by way of the existing at-grade city streets; the agency didn’t go so far as to recommend replacing the freeway with a boulevard.
TxDOT unveiled this “preferred alternative” during a public meeting Tuesday evening at the St. Philips School and Community Center after winnowing down five construction options to one. The winner is called the “hybrid alternative,” which the state believes is a compromise between groups that wanted to tear out the freeway and others who argued for a status quo repair of an aging traffic corridor that connects interstates 30, 45, 35, Central Expressway, and Woodall Rodgers. The trench will be about 65 feet deep.
But that traffic corridor occupies 1.4 miles in the core of the city, on the east side of downtown. The highway opened to traffic in 1974 and is nearing the end of its life, presenting the city with a unique opportunity to rethink the enormous spread of concrete that occupies land that could otherwise support development. When it was constructed, the highway gashed Deep Ellum and cut it off from downtown.
This magazine sparked a conversation about removing the highway in 2014, when the urban planner and current DART board member Patrick Kennedy wrote a story titled “Why We Must Tear Down I-345.”
“People are clamoring to move to an urban neighborhood, but an elevated highway stands in their way,” read the subhead of that story.
Under the hybrid plan, the “urban neighborhood” would sprout on decks over the freeway similar to the infrastructure of Klyde Warren Park. TxDOT has identified 11 areas over I-345 that could be decked at-grade and would be able to house buildings or “deck plazas.” Those areas total about 8.5 acres, stretching from Canton Street past the exit to Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The hybrid plan will also create 7 acres of surplus right of way aside the buried highway.