Dallas Official: Without a Highway Teardown, Park Gets “Free Shade”

Getting officials on board with a highway teardown in Dallas is no easy task. Just ask Patrick Kennedy, a Dallas planner who has led the charge to remove IH-345, an elevated stump of a highway near central Dallas.

A Dallas official described this setting as a good place for athletic courts. Photo: Dallas Morning News

Last week, the Texas Department of Transportation dismissed the teardown proposal out of hand, refusing to even consider it in the range of alternatives being discussed for the aging viaduct.

Local officials, meanwhile, seem to think that won’t be an entirely bad thing for the park they’re planning nearby. Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan recently told the Dallas Morning News that IH-345 might actually provide an amenity to park-goers.

“One nice thing about an elevated freeway is that it provides free shade, which is important, and you can do things like athletic courts that would be appropriate for underneath a freeway,” she said.

Kennedy and his supporters at A New Dallas have been arguing for years that tearing down the elevated highway stub is the best thing for the city. They argue that removing the highway would cost about as much as repairing it: around $100 million. But rather than saddling the city with an expensive maintenance liability, the teardown would open up enough space to support $4 billion worth of development, returning up to $100 million in property tax revenue annually to the city.

Despite the unfortunate comments by Jordan, a growing number of local leaders have been warming to the idea, Kennedy says. He’s not giving up just because TxDOT is being dismissive.

“This is just TxDOT issuing an administrative edict,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t mean we should not call them out for abandoning any pretext of a public process.”

A concept of what the redeveloped area around I-345 could look like, via A New Dallas

Kennedy said supporters of the teardown option will have to shift focus to agencies that have control over pursestrings. TxDOT estimates the repairs will cost about $100 million. But the agency is debt ridden, and it’s not clear where the money will come from.

“We have to get between funding sources and TxDOT to stop any kind of budgeting for it,” he said. “We’re going to try to figure that out as we go.”

Kennedy says in Dallas any major project takes about a decade to complete because “the current leadership isn’t ready for it.” Even if TxDOT finds the money to repair I-345, that is only expected to last for 20 years. Maybe the teardown idea could even happen then, he said.

“$100 million is an expensive shade structure,” said Kennedy. “The trees along re-stitched boulevards and new buildings developed after a teardown can provide shade as well as better parks, safer streets, and more walkability while placing Dallas at the forefront of the 21st century global competition of cities.”