City Hall

Council Committee Approves New "Prairie Look" For Central Expressway

Two years after Texas Department of Transportation officials told Dallas that they could no longer afford to cough up the cash needed to maintain the plant life in the medians and window boxes along the stretch of Central Expressway between Woodall Rodgers and LBJ Freeways, the city council's Transportation and Environment Committee voted Monday afternoon to move ahead with a plan that replaces the existing plant life with native grasses and a "polymer soil."

The plan requires far less maintenance and irrigation than maintaining the remaining landscaping as it is rooted today, but that's not the only reason the committee voted to go with the "prairie look," as council member Tennell Atkins referred to it during yesterday's meeting. Because, based on the discussion that followed the presentation of the four options by officials from TxDOT and the city's Department of Public Works and Transportation, the committee went with the native grasses of "Option 3" for one simple reason: free money.

Turns out "Option 3" included getting some $950,000 in "green ribbon" funding that TxDOT's district landscape architect Patrick Haigh said he'd already programmed for the prairie grass installation -- once the full council gives the final go-ahead of course.

And, after the council members' line of questioning zeroed in on the federal cash being a use-it-or-lose-it offering, well, it didn't take long to decide. Only thing is, the city doesn't know where it's gonna get the $150,000 needed annually to maintain the native grasses. But, hey, it was the least expensive option that didn't involve doing nothing.

That was the first option that the city heard: do nothing. As in: no upkeep or irrigation, which means folks driving on Central would get to watch as the plant life and vegetation remaining in the window boxes and medians withers, dies and is eventually removed. Naturally, that one cost the city nada.

In the second option, the city would partner with TxDOT to maintain the current program at an annual cost of $650,000.

TxDOT would replace existing plant life in the median and window boxes with "hardscaping" or fancy concrete landscaping elements like "a fence, rail, screen or sculpture" for the fourth option. The hardscaping would cost $6 million, which, of course, neither Dallas nor TxDOT can afford anytime in the near future.

Next: The full council will vote. Consider the grass passed.

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Daniel Rodrigue
Contact: Daniel Rodrigue