It's officially called the IH 345 overhead freeway bridge, but you probably know it better as the clusterfuck between Woodall Rodgers and Interstate 30 which, even when there's relatively little traffic, is a nightmare to navigate. It's also structurally deficient, which is a civil engineer's way of saying it's not about to collapse per se, but it could stand to be replaced.
The bridge was built in 1971 and is reaching the end of its usable life, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Pettit said.
"Once you build it, it starts to decay and deteriorate," he said. "This one, we've had to make repairs on it since 2000." The question becomes "is it going to cost us more to keep putting the Band-Aid repairs on it, or do we want to replace it?"
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That's part of what TxDOT will be asking at a public meeting scheduled for December 11. A consultant is finishing up a feasibility study. Ten possible options for IH 345 will be presented at the hearing (and posted here in the coming days), where the people who drive on -- and travel under -- the bridge will have the opportunity to chime in. "Hopefully, [the contractors] get some gold nuggets out of it they might not have considered," Pettit said.
One idea already is being floated: tear the mo-fo down. That's because IH 345 is part of the iron ring of freeways that have turned downtown into an island and helped choke off the central city. The dog park and highway-pillar murals are a nice touch, but they do little to ameliorate the vast under-the-bridge seediness that separates Deep Ellum from downtown.
And the chances that TxDOT will decide to tear down part of a major freeway to promote a more vibrant, liveable downtown Dallas? Pettit chuckled. "Anything is possible," he said in the same tone parents use when gently deflating a child's dream of waking up to a new pony Christmas morning, "but unless a lot of money and a lot of permits and buy-off by all the stakeholders, and (all the parties) involved are aligned," it's not going to happen.
In that case, maybe something along the lines of the Klyde Warren Deck Park would be preferable. Then again, that cost $100-something million, and that freeway was already below-grade. So that probably won't happen, either.