There would be some practical questions that would have to be answered if the Texas Department of Transportation decided to tear down I-345, the short stump of Central Expressway between Woodall Rodgers and Interstate 30. Where will one find shade at Bark Park Central? Where will those artsy, bohemian types paint their highway-pillar "Welcome to Deep Ellum" murals? And, more important, what about the 160,000 cars that travel through the corridor every day?
Those questions are academic at this point. TxDOT's planning to rebuild the freeway, not raze it. A spokesman told Unfair Park in November that the latter option is very, very remote but not completely off the table. It would simply require "a lot of money and a lot of permits and buy-off by all the stakeholders."
Patrick Kennedy, the arch-nemesis of freeways and I-345 in particular, is hoping to get the ball rolling. In February, he penned a piece for D arguing that getting rid of the 1.4-mile stretch of elevated freeway would spur $4 billion in development. The traffic, he wrote, could easily be handled by Elm, Ross, Live Oak and other existing streets.
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Now, he and fellow urban advocate Brandon Hancock have teamed up with designer Justin Scott Childress to launch A New Dallas, a website dedicated to persuading the people of Dallas -- and, by extension, TxDOT -- that I-345 needs to go. It's astoundingly well done and certainly worth perusing.
The basic premise is that the highway serves as a concrete barrier between Deep Ellum and downtown, choking the life out of both. When the barrier is removed, pent-up demand for walkable urban housing lures apartments and condos, which in turn lure shops and bars and restaurants.
There are other benefits, too. Knocking down a hunk of concrete is cheaper and easier than rebuilding and maintaining a freeway. Since the majority of the cars that travel I-345 every day are just passing through, congestion would be eased. And, given how dangerous driving tends to be, both for motorists and pedestrians, any move to reduce reliance on cars is a boon to public safety.
Those arguments are strong, but so, it seems, is TxDOT's commitment to keeping the highway in place. Kennedy is keen on changing that. He'll be trying to do just that tonight at the Dallas Center for Architecture, where he'll deliver a presentation: "Highway Tear-outs: The Next Frontier".