Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Would it make sense to tear out a highway in downtown Dallas?
There is actually some proof that when this has been done in other cities, it works: People drive less, or drive elsewhere.
DALLAS There has been talk, a lot of talk, about removing a section of highway in downtown Dallas. Tear it out, get rid of the concrete somehow (landfill?), and then fill in the space formerly occupied by said highway with development. The proponent of this idea, an urban planner and blogger named Patrick Kennedy and Brandon Hancock, believe this would create greater cohesion between Deep Ellum and downtown Dallas, and make the city a whole lot better. It would create an entire new neighborhood and fill city coffers with new tax dollars.
While it may sound crazy to tear out, and not replace, a major highway, there is actually some proof that when this has been done in other cities, it works: People drive less, or drive elsewhere. I do not think living next to the continuous zoom of highway noise is particularly pleasant, but then some of the most expensive real estate in Preston Hollow is within earshot of the Dallas North Tollway. My husband is currently reading Robert Caro’s extremely long biography of New York City urban planner Robert Moses, the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York and environs, an urban planner who favored highways over public transportation and helped create New York’s huge parkway network. (I read it back in grad school.) As I recall, Moses critics claimed he loved automobiles more than people, and they blamed him for destroying scores of neighborhoods by building 13 expressways across New York City. Of course, almost all cities were building highways and inner city housing projects in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s such as Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. America was as in love with the automobile as we are our iPhones. In Chicago, the expressways run right into the city (under the U.S. Postal Service) and have to stop because of Lake Michigan.
Following suit, Dallas built this particular section of connective highway about 1971.
Truthfully, the more I read, the more I think this is NOT such a bad idea. Whenever I drive on this highway, I-345, the 1.7 miles seem like a whole lot more. It is also very confusing, kind of a mess. Anyhow, I think Kennedy has some great points.
Unfortunately, the Texas Department of Transportation has made up its mind. Over the weekend, Robert Wilonsky reported that TxDOT will rehab I-345, with 2020 as the target date for completion. It will take 20 to 25 years to complete and cost $100 million to rehab.
Great, just what we need: another LBJ mess, this time downtown, for a longer period of driving hell. Replacing I-345 with a tunnel or something else would have cost $100 billion, though I am not sure what that “something else” was — unlike Boston, we have no water channels to bore through. TxDOT was also concerned about what would happen to the cars that travel this road.
“We talked about two options,” Jordan says. “When they say it’s too expensive, what they mentioned to us was rebuilding it either at grade or like Central. Then there’s the other option, which some have promoted, of taking it out and not putting back a freeway. And the problem with that is putting back the cars. Where do those 170,000 to 200,000 cars per day go? They mentioned that as well.”
But the funniest part of this story, at least to me, was to learn how many people in Dallas have never watched Animal House, one of my favorite movies.
“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” he says. “We’re told a tear-down of IH 345 and re-construction of the vibrant, multi-cultural area it destroyed into a complete neighborhood of homes, restaurants, theaters and businesses once there is too expensive. TxDOT’s solution is $100 million to last 20 years. There is no benefit but preventing a collapsing viaduct catastrophe. The tear-down as proposed by A New Dallas would have a similar cost — not a burial — and extraordinary economic, social, and environmental benefit.”
Kennedy has been chided for saying the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, not the Japanese.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, for God’s sake go see Animal House.
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