TxDOT Won't Tear Out Deep Ellum's Freeway, But Dallas' Highway-Removal Push Has Just Begun

In news that should surprise no one, the Texas Department of Transportation will not tear down Interstate 345, the 1.7-mile stretch of highway separating Deep Ellum from downtown.

The Dallas Morning News reported over the weekend that the agency will instead repair the aging span, citing the same concern voiced by Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan: "Where do those 170,000 to 200,000 cars per day go?"

The answer, floated last year by urban planner Patrick Kennedy and real estate developer Brandon Hancock in their vision for "A New Dallas," is that they'd simply go elsewhere, along different highways for those passing through, and along under-used existing streets for those headed to local destinations. Meanwhile, the 245 acres of prime downtown real estate on which the highway squatted would be developed and generate something like $100 million in additional annual property tax revenue.

See also: TxDOT Wondering What to Do With Bridge Between I-30 and Woodall Rodgers. (Hint: They're Not Going to Tear It Down)

Kennedy isn't surprised that TxDOT wouldn't take his advice, nor does he consider his efforts a failure.

"One of our main goals was to show what the public process really is, that it in all likelihood wasn't going to be a real, legitimate, open dialogue," he says.

On that front, A New Dallas was a smashing success. It also succeeded in convincing various players -- leaders of the Deep Ellum Foundation, Downtown Dallas Inc., the Dallas Arts District, among others -- that a tear-down at least merited serious consideration.

What the movement failed to do was convince policymakers (not to mention the general driving public) that less highway doesn't necessarily equal more congestion, or, conversely, that more congestion can be a positive if it spurs economic development, opens up the ring of concrete that is strangling downtown, and improves quality of life.

Such considerations don't jibe with the paradigm currently in favor at TxDOT and the city of Dallas, in which the efficient movement of vehicles is paramount.

See also: The Push to Tear Down I-345 Gains Steam

Still, the conversation has begun, and Kennedy says "A New Dallas" will continue to push it forward, now more than ever. Among the items on the agenda is to hire a transportation consulting firm like Nelson/Nygaard to conduct a more rigorous study of the effects of tearing out I-345. Eventually, maybe other highways too.

At some point, the thinking goes, the evidence will be impossible to ignore. TxDOT will have to pay attention.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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