I am ashamed to admit this, but what I am about to post was published in the Dallas Morning News in early June.
The Texas Department of Transportation has its eyes on the roughly 1.5
mile stretch of highway between Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Interstate
30. Officials have presented nine rebuild or repair options. But some of
us favor a 10th option: demolition.
As an individual with a
master’s in planning who isn’t actually working in the field, I
certainly am not the most eloquent spokesman for this project. That more
aptly belongs to Patrick Kennedy, who has written about this on his
blog and been the featured crusader in this paper on the topic. He even
has a website devoted to it, anew
I, however, do
have a unique perspective. I have lived in downtown Dallas for seven
years and worked in the core almost as long. In all that time, I have
used the freeway only a few times.
I have endured the long, lonely
walk between downtown and Deep Ellum far more often, and almost every
time have lamented the vast emptiness the freeway spawns between two
important Dallas urban neighborhoods.
That is what this is about.
drivers do use this stretch of highway to get downtown, but most are
just passing through. Why are we sacrificing our urban neighborhoods to
continue to help Plano, McKinney or Lancaster grow? They are doing great
and don’t need Dallas to destroy its urban fabric to help them.
something the entire region is facing a shortage of — a true, urban,
walkable neighborhood — is divided. Imagine if we developed the freeway
area. It could be transformed from something that requires money to
maintain into something that provides tax revenue.
To some degree,
we in Dallas already know this. Look no further than Klyde Warren Park.
It has been hailed as a wild success exactly because it un-freeways the
area. Instead of dividing these neighborhoods, the park stitches them
So if we can make that case that demolition can be a
good thing, why is it not even an option? The answer is really twofold,
but both lie in the planning process.
First, TxDOT has built
highways for as long as its officials can remember. It is their first
responsibility. That works in outlying areas, where there are real
estate prices to consider when opening up new land for development. But
that doesn’t work for Dallas. What new land will be ready for
development if this freeway stub is redone?
The other reason
demolition is not considered is how the planning process actually works,
usually with an objective listed. With this project, as with almost all
of TxDOT’s, officials start with how they can move as many cars as
possible for the lowest cost.
Many of the options will require a
complete teardown anyway, so the project costs for this option would be
drastically lower. And certainly this option has the best return for the
city of Dallas and for cash-strapped TxDOT.
Ultimately, the best
way to get TxDOT to consider this option is local pressure. The city of
Dallas has to care enough. Otherwise it would be a long and bruising
battle. There are those who are skeptical that a city that thinks with
its car would actually pursue freeway demolition as an answer to some of
its urban problems. I think it is possible, but those who are its
advocate have to be loud and convincing.
As I alluded to in the article, there are better spokespeople than I. I leave you with the site.