Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is still officially on the fence about tearing down I-345, the two-mile stretch of freeway between downtown and Deep Ellum. He's spent the last several months meeting with, in his words, "local business leaders, concerned citizens and the Texas Department of Transportation."
Even after meeting Tuesday with TxDOT district engineer Bill Hale, Rawlings hasn't officially decided on what the freeway's ultimate fate should be. He did, however, say that, in the near-term, repair is the only option.
"Canceling or postponing renovations will increase safety concerns for travelers on the highway, and I refuse to compromise the safety of our citizens for any idea, regardless of its merit," he said in a statement released Tuesday evening.
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"It is also important to understand that tearing down I-345 would be very expensive, with TxDOT estimating a cost of approximately $1.9 billion to fund demolition and associated street and bridge improvements. And it's a time-consuming process as well. Similar projects have taken up to 10 years to complete."
That doesn't sound like someone who's about to come out swinging for a highway tear-out, but who knows. He at least deserves credit for pushing back against TxDOT's knee-jerk refusal of the proposal and forcing them to at least pretend to entertain the notion.
Also, while that $1.9 billion figure may seem daunting -- suspiciously daunting, even, as if TxDOT wants to take the option of the table -- Dallas has proven its willingness to mobilize money and support for a big fanciful highway transformation. Unfortunately for I-345 haters, the Klyde Warren Space That's Not a Freeway Anymore doesn't have much of a ring to it.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.