Dallas Advocates Launch a PAC to Tear Down a Highway

Tearing down I-345 would open up 240 acres of prime urban land for development. Image: A New Dallas
Tearing down I-345 would open up 240 acres of prime urban land for development. Image: A New Dallas

The movement for a more livable, less car-clogged Dallas has legs.

A group of reformers advocating for the teardown of Dallas’s Interstate 345 has set out to reshape the political landscape — and they’re off to a blazing start. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that the group, A New Dallas, has launched a political action committee to support City Council candidates who back their vision for removing the urban highway and opening up land for development. The PAC has quickly amassed an impressive $225,000.

The May City Council election is shaping up to be the key moment. Thanks to term limits, there are open seats in six of the city’s 14 districts. If highway teardown supporters can win four of those six spots, they will have the majority they need on City Council to move ahead with the demolition, opening up 240 acres of the center city to walkable urban development.

“We’ve built a real coalition that wants to see some different ways of thinking about the city,” said Patrick Kennedy, an urban planner and co-founder of the PAC who writes the Street Smart column at D Magazine (his pieces appear on Streetsblog Texas). “Our goal was $200,000 for the first year and we blew right through that the first week.”

The PAC’s leaders also include former state senator John Carona, church organizer George Battle III, and Wick Allison, co-founder of D Magazine. They have hired Matt Tranchin, who led Obama for America’s North Texas operation in 2008, to lead the PAC, Kennedy reports.

A New Dallas began as a grassroots effort by Kennedy and development analyst Brandon Hancock, who is also among the PAC’s founders. For roughly five years the pair have been making the case for tearing down I-345, an aging elevated highway that runs between downtown and the Deep Ellum neighborhood. According to their analysis, tearing down the highway and replacing it with an at-grade street would open up 240 acres of land. If developed at moderate densities, that could represent $4 billion in investment in much-needed walkable urban fabric in Dallas.

A New Dallas has been taking its plan on the road, giving presentations to community leaders and neighborhood groups and speaking up in the press for the highway removal. Now all of that work seems to be paying off. Their message — less money poured into asphalt and more into creating a walkable city — seems to be resonating with newcomers, young professionals, and even some Dallas ex-pats.

But most critically, as their recent fundraising success demonstrates, they have won over some influential members of the local “leadership class,” Kennedy said. “There seems to be some people who believe in what we’re talking about.”

The group is not releasing the names of major donors yet (they aren’t required to yet), but Kennedy said business leaders with no direct financial interest in the outcome have contributed. Early fundraising efforts were so successful, in fact, the group is beginning to think of itself as more of a long-term institution, rather than a PAC aimed at a single issue and a single race.

“345 just happens to be timely,” said Kennedy. “It’s more of a mindset change.”

Image: A New Dallas
Image: A New Dallas
  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Everyone is always complaining about special interests, the key is to just become a special interest.

  • Alex

    just as easy as becoming a billionaire right?

  • Daniel Hodun

    If you need big money, you gotta love to developers because they will stand to benefit in millions.

  • Kevin Love

    The first million is the hardest.

  • aw82

    Hmm…is city council the right place to focus this energy/money? It is a state highway we’re talking about, after all.

  • RGuinart

    Yeah, how would a majority on City Council give you power to tear down an Interstate? That’s TxDOT’s purview…

  • Texas DOT has been waiting for guidance from the city and is currently considering a teardown proposal among some other options. Oh, and Dallas has a weak mayor form of government.

  • Just Wondering

    Sounds like an interesting idea. But, if it’s an interstate, I wonder where the Texas congressional delegation would stand on the issue. Also, where would the existing auto traffic be re-routed to?

  • Patrick Kennedy

    I will answer the question as to why city council matters. First, TxDOT has said they want to do what Dallas wants. Second, we have 6 of 14 council seats opening up due to term limits and none term limited in two years, meaning the next council will sit for four years. This is unprecedented. 345 is but one issue, it just so happens to be the most pressing since it is falling down and we don’t really care to spend $240 million to keep it standing for 20 years. Third, we have some great leadership at TxDOT who are beginning a public visioning process to explore all possibilities of all highways in and around downtown. The new council will help guide the city through that process. And then every issue thereafter where we want smart, independent thinking people focused on making Dallas a better city as a priority.

  • Ken Martin

    “If you can count your money, you don’t have a
    billion dollars.” — J. Paul Getty, International Herald Tribune, Jan. 10,
    1961.

  • Bernard Finucane

    But the road is occupying city land.

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