Throughout discussions about the future of the expressway, several options were considered, but two rose to the top. Neighborhood advocates wanted I-345 replaced with a boulevard. Failing that, they at least wanted the vote to be delayed to allow time for an independent study of all available options. TxDOT wanted Dallas to go with what it called a hybrid option, which was unanimously approved by the City Council on Wednesday.
The City Council's vote on Wednesday was on a resolution in support of the TxDOT plan.
The state agency said its recommendation would keep northern and southern Dallas connected and provide land for possible redevelopment, among other things, and the construction costs would not be borne by the city. TxDOT said replacing I-345 with a boulevard would create more traffic and break the north-south connection, and the city would be on the hook for the construction costs. The removal could also cause potential civil rights violations and affect the city’s ability to get certain funding and support from the state and federal government, according to TxDOT.
Several people turned out to Wednesday’s City Council meeting to speak against TxDOT’s recommendation, which is expected to cost some $1 billion.
Adam Lamont, cofounder of the group Dallas Neighbors for Housing, said Wednesday that while the City Council didn’t see replacing I-345 with a boulevard as a viable option, it should still push back more on the TxDOT plan. Dallas Neighbors for Housing has been leading a campaign online and at city meetings to replace I-345 with a boulevard.
“If we prioritize connecting north and south, I understand and think that that's a worthy cause, but hope that we view other ways of making our city better other than doubling down on mistakes of the past,” Lamont said.
I-345 dealt a major blow to Deep Ellum, which had become a Black business center in the city in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. The building of the highway displaced residents, and caused businesses to fail and neighborhoods to decline. Advocates say removing I-345 could be a way of rectifying all of this.
Caleb Roberts, a resident who lives near I-345 and supports replacing it with a boulevard, said it’s about more than just transportation. “It's a social issue," Roberts told City Council. "It’s a community issue. It’s a historical issue.”
“It's a social issue. It’s a community issue. It’s a historical issue.” – Caleb Roberts, residenttweet this
Before the final vote, City Council member Omar Narvaez added an amendment to give Dallas more oversight of the plan. Under the amendment, TxDOT would need to update the city every six months on the remodel; align it with Dallas’ economic development policy, racial equity plan and other policies; and study ways to reroute trucks away from the expressway.
“It’s not perfect,” Narvaez said. “But this motion takes us into that next phase, that next level that we need to do in order to get this design accurate and make sure that it’s right.”
Dallas City Council member Chad West said he had mixed feelings about Narvaez’s amendment. “I’m not in favor of a highway of any type continuing to divide the neighborhoods of Deep Ellum and downtown,” West said. Instead, he’d like to see a boulevard system in I-345’s place, saying it would provide more economic development opportunities, housing and connectivity throughout the city. “But I’m going to grudgingly support this amendment today … assuming a few doors remain open,” he said.
The amendment also enables Dallas to withdraw support for the TxDOT plan in pursuit of a new one. But in that event, Dallas would have to pay for it and, when asked, City Manager T.C. Broadnax said he isn’t sure where the money would come from.
Either way, West said I-345 will be replaced with something better.
“This is not a perfect solution in my opinion,” West said. “But at the end of the day, what we can say if we support this is that, today, TxDOT and the city of Dallas have decided to take down a highway and are going to put something better there in its place.”