This independent study began 2 years ago to explore the economic, environmental, and traffic impacts of removing the freeway as it approached the end of its structural life span. While the remainder of this study explores the impacts of inner-city highways and the need to remove them, this particular highway section was chosen as opposed to the other freeways bounding downtown Dallas for a few primary reasons:
Age: Elevated highways typically have a structural lifespan of about 40. It is now 40 years old.
Structural Instability: Due to the asymmetric column structure supporting the road, it is more unstable than typical elevated freeways. Since 2000, 487 cracks have been spot repaired.
Lack of existing improvements in the area: As the economic impact section shows, the study area shows an enormous amount of underdeveloped land around IH345, mostly consisting of vacant land, surface parking lot, or excessive public right-of-way.
Lack of on-going investment in area: Due to the Arts District, uptown development, and various other projects going on around the city, the area around IH345 has the least amount of positive momentum.
No current plan on the books: At the time this study began, construction work had begun on Klyde Warren Deck Park spanning Woodall Rodgers freeway, planning for Project Pegasus and the East Corridor was on-going, therefore three of the four sides already had enormous amounts of mental and financial capital expenditures. IH345 represented the most forgotten and the greatest opportunity.
East Dallas: The original expansion direction of the city. Near East Dallas from I-30 to the historic ‘M’ Streets, from downtown to White Rock Lake consists of more than 5,000 acres of some of the best “bones” in all of Texas. However, much of the historic grid and architecture is plagued by blight and disinvestment, but it represents the best opportunity between existing and potential value.
Late in 2012, TxDOT began feasibility studies for various options to either repair or rebuild IH345. You can find the 9 options on their website. None of the current proposals include the removal of the highway section and the reconstruction of the historic grid to knit downtown back to its eastern neighborhoods as cities around the country and globe are doing. We suggest doing just that.
However stated on their website, proper weight is not being given to considerations other than moving vehicular traffic. As we’ll demonstrate in the traffic section, the 160,000 vehicles per day that use the corridor are there only because the highway is there. And both downtown and East Dallas suffer from it.
Instead, we propose using metrics and priorities other than simply maintaining status quo, including:
The boundary of the study area consists of 245 acres of land, of which 63.93 are within public right-of-way and 118.29 acres are vacant or underdeveloped private land that could be leveraged into far greater value for the landowner. Perhaps “underdeveloped” isn’t an accurate term here precisely because of the highway adjacency. Its highest and best use is little more than a surface parking lot.
This rendered plan is not meant to be finalized. It simply an exercise in what amount of development fits on the site in place of a highway and parking lots. How many new parks, new buildings, new neighborhood-scaled, pedestrian-friendly streets would be required? If a highway tear-out were pursued for IH345, a comprehensive planning process would be necessary to ensure public input.