Dallas City Council to Decide Fate of I-345 in Upcoming Vote

Dallas city officials are in a quandary regarding the future of I-345, the expressway bridge located between downtown and Deep Ellum. The City Council is currently deliberating on the various options available for the highway, with a final vote on the issue expected this month. Built in 1973 as a 1.4-mile, six-lane elevated structure, I-345 connects Interstate 45 to U.S. 75 via downtown and provides access to I-30 and Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Presently, the highway facilitates the smooth passage of approximately 180,000 vehicles per day, a number that could increase to 206,000 by 2045.

To develop alternatives for I-345, the Texas Department of Transportation recently conducted a study that cost approximately $7 million. The agency’s aim was to determine the best solution that prioritizes safety, mobility and operability. When conducting this latest study, TxDOT took earlier studies of the highway as well as ongoing city projects into account. Around half of the population in the area around the highway is made up of minority communities, with approximately 34% living below the 2022 national poverty level of $27,750.

Five options concerning I-345 are currently on the table: leaving it as it is, depressing it to make it a below-grade highway, removing it and replacing it with a boulevard, enhancing the existing elevated structure and nearby street grid and pedestrian infrastructure, or using a refined hybrid option recommended by TxDOT that would depress the freeway and create a deck park. All these options have benefits and potential drawbacks.

The study’s results were discussed by Dallas’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the City Council. A resolution of support for the TxDOT-recommended refined hybrid option was scheduled for a City Council vote on February 22nd but had to be delayed as council members wanted residents to have more time to give their feedback. The vote is now set for May 24th.

During the committee meeting, Assistant City Manager Robert M. Perez stated that the results of the public input seemed to focus on two options: the removal option and the hybrid option. In the case of both the below-grade and elevated options, TxDOT would foot the construction costs, with the former providing several acres of land for possible development. However, the city would need to incur the right-of-way costs.

TxDOT expresses concern that the removal of the highway would do significant harm to traffic, eliminate the connection between South Dallas and North Dallas, and require the city to cover the right-of-way and construction costs. Moreover, there could be potential Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) grade separations, and the removal may not even gain approval. Additionally, the removal could lead to legal challenges over potential civil rights violations that would need to be determined by the U.S. Department of Justice, consequently affecting the city’s ability to gain certain state and federal funding and support.

TxDOT’s hybrid option preserves the north and south connection, removes the perceived barriers between surrounding communities, provides land for potential redevelopment, and creates more shared-use paths on cross streets. The construction costs would also be covered by TxDOT under this option. Ceason Clemens, TxDOT’s district engineer, stated during the committee meeting that public comments on I-345 focused on retaining coherence among communities, travel times between North Dallas and South Dallas, and the potential for future economic development.

Dallas Neighbors for Housing launched the website replace345.org calling for an independent study of all the alternatives for I-345, stating that TxDOT is only examining the traffic implications of the project.

City Council member Cara Mendelsohn supports proceeding with TxDOT’s plans, and City Council member Paula Blackmon believes that removing I-345 and replacing it with a boulevard may prevent the southern part of Dallas from being shut off from the rest of the city. Blackmon encourages refinement of any plan chosen and suggests that the community should not just stop and let things happen.

Related Articles

Back to top button