The Dallas Morning News' Brandon Formby spent days, maybe weeks, trying to chase down Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill to get her views on tearing down I-345, the short nub of freeway dividing Deep Ellum from downtown. She wouldn't talk, twice begging off because she was too busy, then just not returning phone calls.
Hill, chair of Dallas' Transportation and Trinity River Corridor Committee and one of the city's four representatives on the powerful Regional Transportation Council, will have a strong voice in deciding the fate of 345. She put any doubt about her position to rest at Thursday's RTC meeting in Arlington.
Responding to Councilwoman and fellow RTC member Sandy Greyson's complaint that transportation planners had put the cart before the horse by predicating the removal of 345 on the construction of the Trinity Parkway, Hill erased any doubt, if there ever was any, of where she stands.
I want to be on record as taking the almost polar opposite position of my esteemed colleague from the north. I-345 directly impacts the people that I represent. They have to have a way to get from where they live -- South Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, South Dallas -- to where the jobs are: downtown, the medical district, the airport, and to other points north. Taking down I-345 substantially and adversely affects the folk that I represent.
If the conversation is going to head in the direction of taking down I-345 -- which I absolutely oppose -- then there has to be something to replace it, and it is not surface streets. The most practicable replacement at this time in history is the Trinity Parkway. There is not anything else out there to replace how my folk get from south to north and downtown. Therefore, while Ms. Greyson and I represent the same very large metropolitan urbanized area, we take a diametrically opposed position on what happens with the Trinity Parkway in conjunction with I-345.
Hill isn't the only Dallas City Council member opposed to the tear-down. Councilman Sheffie Kadane went a bit further, suggesting the Trinity Parkway, which if it's ever built will link I-45 and Stemmons, is a prerequisite both for keeping 345 and tearing it down.
"To keep the parkway, we keep 345. That's what it's all about. That parkway has been approved twice," he said, turning his attention toward Greyson. "I don't care. That's what you're fighting about, Sandy: You don't want that parkway. And that's the only reason you brought that up. So yeah I am gonna fight you."
Hill and Kadane are just two people, but their voices are important. North Central Texas Council of Governments director Michael Morris -- the guy who initially linked a 345 teardown and the Trinity toll road -- said that considering any options besides repair would need buy-in from TxDOT, the driving public, and the city of Dallas.
Easy to see this ending with TxDOT's promised teardown study (now on the fast track) predicting carmageddon and a dismissive "told you so," from the local transportation brain trust.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.