Texas DOT Open to Burying Highway That Cuts Through Dallas

Though it's not the highway teardown advocates want, TxDOT is now considering putting 1.3-miles of I-345 underground.

The neighborhoods east of downtown Dallas in 1963, before the construction of I-345, and in the present day (note: the photos are not taken from the same perspective). Top photo: Tom Dillard/Dallas Morning News; bottom photo: Streetfilms
The neighborhoods east of downtown Dallas in 1963, before the construction of I-345, and in the present day (note: the photos are not taken from the same perspective). Top photo: Tom Dillard/Dallas Morning News; bottom photo: Streetfilms

I-345 in Dallas is a remnant of America’s 1960s highway-building binge, which leveled city neighborhoods to make way for huge grade-separated roads. With the segment in central Dallas approaching the end of its design life, a growing movement has called for its removal, which would enable the city to reconnect downtown and the neighborhood of Deep Ellum.

The idea that Dallas needs to reconsider its relationship to highways is central to an ascendant political coalition in the city. Recently the City Council announced it would discontinue planning for the Trinity Toll Road, a $1.7 billion urban highway.

The latest news involves I-345. Though it’s not the highway teardown advocates want, Texas DOT is now considering putting the 1.3-mile highway segment underground, reports Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Morning News. A recent conversation he had with TxDOT Commissioner Victor Vandergriff leads Wilonsky to believe there’s been a significant shift in thinking at the agency:

Vandergriff said — and here’s the wild part — that not only is it possible we’ll see 345 get vanished in the next two decades, but it’s a very real “probability.”

Which floored me, because on a cold December night in 2012, I attended a TxDOT meeting across from Dallas Love Field where the spokesmen and engineers were shrugging off any talk about razing the overpass. That night they offered nine possibilities for the future of the disintegrating 345, eight of which were just different shades of “rebuild.” And for years after, TxDOT was telling everyone 345 was going to live forever. Then-council member Vonciel Jones Hill said the same thing.

And now here we were talking about the likelihood of burying it.

And I mean that literally — as in, sinking the freeway below grade and decking it, maybe with a park but more than likely with mixed-use and commercial developments that would restitch the city center with Deep Ellum and East Dallas.

Not to diminish the excitement, but burying and capping I-345 would likely be very expensive and fall far short of the improvement in walkability that a real teardown would enable.

Patrick Kennedy, who spearheaded the campaign to tear down the highway, told Wilonsky he’d prefer an at-grade street network that disperses traffic, while Vandergriff maintained that “TxDOT is about congestion relief and connectivity” — i.e. moving cars. But apparently Kennedy’s work highlighting how much land is consumed by the highway has had an effect on TxDOT officials.

More recommended reading today: TheCityFix shares photos showing how Sao Paolo is using colorful, inexpensive materials to redesign its streets and repurpose space from cars to people. And BuildZoom uses housing prices to identify urban areas that should allow greater density.

  • When it comes to urban asthmaways:
    Teardown > #deckthehighways > status quo.

    To me, this #deckthehighways compromise is a sign of progress – and a sign that some DOTs no longer regard asthmaways as untouchable sacred cows (though much more work remains on that front).

  • Bernard Finucane

    Other ideas to explore that would be much cheaper include building sound barriers and reducing the size of the ramps.

    But one way or another, the road doesn’t provide any economic benefits, so it should go. Notice the DOT doesn’t even pretend it does. The are interested in congestion relief, not improving the economy of the city.

  • Ashkan Mehryari

    I’m all for burring it but oh God, the traffic that’s going to create for 5 years.

  • keenplanner

    Demolish it and they will leave. Freeways don’t belong in central cities.

  • SFnative74

    Burying it doesn’t seem like much of a victory. Given the amount of infrastructure this country needs to rehab, we need to think of projects to let go and not rebuild. The opportunity cost of demolishing this freeway and burying it rather than not rebuilding it is massive. What else could be fixed with the funding spent instead on burying a freeway?

  • Vooch

    burying it means it will easier to double deck when the time comes.

  • Dennis Michael Apgar

    Interstates 45, 345, and U.S. Highway 75 is the most direct route connecting Galveston Texas and Houston Texas with Dallas Texas and further North Tulsa Oklahoma which makes these three highways major arterials. Replacing this busy freeway with a boulevard would be detrimental to the flow of traffic going through downtown Dallas. It is a known fact that widening urban freeways by three or four more lanes would end the traffic congestion going through it. You replace an urban Interstate Highway with a city boulevard and you get bumper to bumper traffic even worse than that before the freeway was removed. Drivers have to get somewhere too.

  • Dennis Apgar

    Actually they do belong in central cities and they are so architecturally cool.

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