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I-345 Is Dead, Long Live I-345

Matt Goodman
By |
I-345, which won’t be staying up, but won’t be going away.

The Dallas City Council today gave the state of Texas permission to pursue funding to remove and trench I-345, the currently elevated 1.4-mile highway separating downtown and Deep Ellum. The Council’s vote was delivered with the energy of a sigh despite weeks of parliamentary backroom wrangling among some council members who wanted more time to study the plan before approving it.

It was a near impossibility to convince the Texas Department of Transportation to do anything that altered the amount of traffic lanes that slice through Dallas’ urban core. TxDOT owns the 50-year-old highway, not the city of Dallas. It is among the shortest on the national highway network, a stub that connects to Central Expressway, Woodall Rodgers, and interstates 30 and 45. It is, more than anything, a concrete connective tissue that allows freeway traffic to flow in all directions, a traffic engineer’s dream. TxDOT cites traffic counts of 180,000 cars on the roadway per day. Powerful transportation officials don’t seem capable of imagining a world in which the highway doesn’t exist.

Partly that is because they understand the game. Vehicle capacity on highways is the top transportation priority of Gov. Greg Abbott, whose edicts dictate which projects are funded and which are not.

There have been grassroots calls for nearly a dozen years to remove I-345 and replace it with a boulevard and a reconfigured system of surface streets that would absorb the traffic. But because of its status—a state-owned thoroughfare on the National Highway Freight Network—the city had no power to pursue something so radical. The most the City Council could do was stall by voting against the resolution, a move that had little support among the 14 council members who were present for Wednesday’s vote. (Mayor Eric Johnson was absent because he was speaking on a panel about sports in Qatar.)

The City Council voted unanimously to support TxDOT’s preference for the highway, which it calls the “hybrid plan,” with some caveats.

“This is not a perfect solution, in my opinion, but at the end of the day, what we can say if we support this is that today, TxDOT and the city of Dallas have decided to take down a highway and are going to put something better there in its place,” said Councilman Chad West, the loudest and loneliest pro-boulevard voice on the City Council.

Local News

Prepare Yourself: Scooters Return to Dallas Streets This Week

Matt Goodman
By |
Dallas believes its new regulations will prevent scenes like this from happening across the city. Shawn Shinneman

Dallas’ nearly three-year ban of electric rental scooters will lift Wednesday, letting loose a comparative trickle of two-wheelers on city streets. (The city hopes the optimal word there is “streets.”)

Since banning the mode of micro-mobility under the guise of “public safety” in September 2020, Dallas city staffers have worked to figure out why and how these devices became such a nuisance. City Hall believes it has established a series of new regulations that will prevent a free-for-all, starting with how many scooters you’ll see and where you will see them.

Just three operators will have permission to drop their rides. Bird and Lime are back, along with the Denver-based newcomer Superpedestrian. Each company will be allowed to bring 500 scooters at first, and the city will evaluate performance every three months. They could be allowed another 250 each time, with a cap at 1,250. That means no more than a total of 3,750 rental scooters in Dallas; that’s likely a fraction of how many were here during peak Scootermania.

Not that Dallas could track them. During the first draft, the city had no real structure for scooter registration, meaning new companies were allowed to enter the market and weren’t limited to a total they could drop. Dallas couldn’t even get the operators to adhere to a curfew. Too, some were unwilling to share ridership data that the city wanted to help inform policy.

“Everything was learning. We went from this not even being a technology to being bombarded with it,” says Kathryn Rush, chief planner with the Department of Transportation at the city of Dallas. “It was a totally new regulatory environment that really isn’t very comparable.”  

Michael Morris, the most powerful transportation official in North Texas, is ready to be done with I-345.

The Texas Department of Transportation would prefer to trench the highway 65 feet below ground, on the east side of downtown, which would allow traffic to flow and development to come on decks over the roadway and on surplus right of way. But some on the Dallas City Council still have questions about how this would affect the city generations from now.  

Morris, the transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, believes that this is a simple decision. There is money in Washington and in Austin, and that money can be spent tearing the freeway down, digging a 65-foot-deep trench, laying as many as 10 lanes in that depression, and reconnecting existing streets over the below-ground freeway.

Later, Morris says, the city and his organization can figure out all the economic development potential surrounding this project, including how to pay for decks over the freeway that could hold some manner of buildings or parks. The COG, as his organization is known, helps secure state and federal dollars for major infrastructure projects like this one.

And this one is indeed major. TxDOT’s trenching plan—the so-called “hybrid” plan—will cost at least $1 billion and will require years of construction. The state won’t pay for decking, and the city will have to purchase surplus right of way freed up when ramps are torn out.

“Make hay while the sun shines,” Morris said last Monday night, May 8, during a specially called panel of top city staffers, prominent developers, and representatives for downtown and Deep Ellum. It was the unofficial kickoff to a month of policy decisions that will end with the City Council either giving its support for the state’s trenching plan or continuing to study other possible plans for I-345.


Why Dallas Should Not Fear Its Past

By Bill Porterfield |
Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
Illustration by: Brian Britigan

In 1982, the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture published a 95-page book titled Imagining Dallas, which contained eight essays about our city written by notable Dallasites, including Wick Allison, the co-founder of D Magazine. In his contribution, reprinted below, the great Bill Porterfield wrote about the city’s unemotional march into the future.

In conjunction with a series of talks about the city on May 25, the Dallas Institute is revisiting Imagining Dallas. Porterfield’s piece was originally titled “Man and Beast in the City: Twain or Twin.” At the time of publication, in 1982, Porterfield was a columnist for the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald and a creative writing teacher at SMU. When he died at the age of 81, in 2014, his son Winton told the Austin American-Statesman: “He was a force of nature really, kind of a walking thunderstorm. He was very creative, he was passionate, he was tempestuous, he was profane, he loved ideas, and he loved words and books. Obviously, he loved women; he was married six times. He loved whiskey and dogs and cheeseburgers. He was a really good dancer and he didn’t wear underwear. He was a short man but a man in full.”

Below, we present his thoughts on the city, from 1982.

Local News

The Sophomore Who Got Dallas to Pay Attention to Street Safety Near Adamson High

Bethany Erickson
By |
Adamson High School sophomore Abraham Moreno, seen here at the far right with Dallas City Councilman Chad West and city and Dallas ISD staff, is advocating for pedestrian-friendly road improvements around his school. Courtesy Krista Nightengale

Abraham Moreno didn’t need to almost get hit by a car to motivate him to advocate for safer streets near Adamson High. But it certainly didn’t hurt the sophomore’s argument.

Last year, a city contractor mistakenly striped a one-way road near the Oak Cliff school that made 9th Street appear to drivers as if it was open for two-way traffic. The city returned to correct the error—but also painted over the crosswalks that students use multiple times each day.

Moreno and Adamson administrators are still trying to get the city to pay more attention to those specific issues. A Dallas ISD spokesperson said that Adamson teachers have directed traffic during arrival and dismissal, and the district has been working with the city to correct the matter.

But Moreno said the problem for pedestrians and bikers near Adamson, located two blocks east of Beckley on 9th Street, actually started much earlier. 

As the executive director of the Circuit Trail Conservancy, Philip Hiatt Haigh (aka P2H) is working with public and private partners to build The LOOP, a 50-mile paved trail around the heart of Dallas that will fully open in 2026. This month, one important part was slated to be approved, a leg of the Trinity Forest Spine Trail through the new Creekside Park, 1 mile south of White Rock Lake.

Today’s jaunt takes us way up Greenville Avenue, north of Park Lane. The famously walkable Lower Greenville might as well be in a different city: we are in the land of strip malls and storage centers and AutoZones and Presby hospital. This is also home to one of the largest concentrations of apartments in the city, in Vickery Meadow, and the infrastructure doesn’t reflect that.

An alert FrontBurnervian brings us the above photo, from the 7500 block of Greenville. The sidewalk dead-ends and disappears right into a utility pole. We know that Dallas is missing 2,000 miles of sidewalk across the city. We also know that Dallas doesn’t have enough money to fill in 2,000 miles of sidewalk, which naturally leads to sometimes difficult conversations of where the money it does have can have the most impact.

But some things just seem way too easy to fix. Or ignore, I guess.

Beginning December 12, nine of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s major bus routes will return to normal service after six months of delays. That’s big news, because those bus routes are the primary arteries to achieve the agency’s goals of increasing frequency and reliability for riders. DART rolled out its much-lauded new bus network in January 2022, and by June it was already having to walk it back because of a driver shortage.

The redesign established 22 “core frequent routes” that would come every 15 minutes during peak times and every 20 minutes afterward. The new system scrapped the former hub and spoke model for something more closely resembling a grid, increasing the chances your bus shows up on time. DART says it increased access to jobs by transit within 60 minutes by 34 percent.

The trade-off was you might have to walk a little further to your destination, or use the system’s GoLink on-demand service to replace the less popular routes that were eliminated in service of the more frequent ones.  

But that only works if there are enough drivers. In June, DART told the Dallas City Council that it was down 163 drivers. Twenty-minute buses were coming every 30 minutes, 15-minute pickups ballooned to 20 and 25 minutes. As a Band-Aid, the agency delayed arrivals by 5 minutes for about 31 of its 97 bus routes, roughly a third of its entire system.

DART then got to work finding drivers. It bumped its starting wage to $21.13 an hour, about $4 higher than it had been. Rosa Maria Cristobal, the agency’s vice president for human resources, said competition from companies like Amazon and FedEx prompted the increase in starting pay as well as signing bonuses. DART launched media campaigns and hiring fairs.

The result of that “aggressive operator hiring initiative” meant that DART could return nine of its highest ridership routes to full service about a month ahead of time. The remaining 22 will return to regular service on January 23.

And then we can see how successful the redesign is. Below are the routes that will be back to normal on December 12:


New Podcast: Mark Lamster Argues for Redesigning Dealey Plaza

Matt Goodman
By |
(Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News, courtesy Mark Lamster)

Last month, Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster set about solving what he calls “one of the city’s most profound urban failings.” Dealey Plaza, perhaps the most frequented tourist destination in Dallas, “is a deplorable state of affairs,” a tangle of wide access roads that ferry vehicles onto Interstates 30 and 35 and to points west while hiding and minimizing the tragedies it should seek to memorialize.

It fails its responsibility for the future, as this will be the front door to an eventual park along the Trinity River levees. It fails its present, too, by putting pedestrians in danger and failing to appropriately recognize the assassination of President John F. Kennedy beyond crudely drawn white Xs that pop up along Elm Street. (Today is the 59th anniversary of Kennedy’s murder.)

Hidden behind concrete is Martyr’s Park, which Lamster notes is difficult to access and fails to be an appropriate home for a forthcoming $100,000 memorial to victims of racist violence. Jerry Hawkins, the executive director of the nonprofit Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation has a strong quote for why this is a problem: “If Martyr’s Park is a reflection of the city’s will to address its past wrongs, then the mirror is broken.”

It’s a lot to unpack, so we invited Lamster to the Old Monk to discuss the work. The News commissioned a team of designers to rethink the space, including Stoss Landscape Urbanism’s Chris Reed and Monica Ponce de Leon of MPdL Studio in New Jersey.

The News presents this speculative proposal — a big idea, complete with renderings and architectural drawings — to show how these spaces could be transformed; to suggest what is possible if the city can summon its collective will,” Lamster writes.

The News held a discussion with the designers involved last week. Michael Granberry’s coverage of the event includes statements of support from Mayor Eric Johnson and Park Board Chair Arun Agarwal. Some of the hundred or so attendees had their own concerns, largely with the decision to shut down Elm. It sets the table for the sort of discussions that will need to happen before this becomes reality.

Other quick takes: Lamster says depressing I-345 is a “half-measure” and “generally half measures don’t work.” Elm Street near Dealey Plaza needs to be closed to vehicles because it’s a “dangerous traffic disaster waiting to happen.” As for Dallas: “I think the city is changing, but it’s not changing fast enough.”

Listen after the jump.

Four miles from downtown Dallas, just below the Tenison Glen Golf Course, is a 50-acre spread of elm, hackberry, and ash trees that’s basically inaccessible to the public. By the end of 2023, this will be Dallas’ newest soft-surface natural cycling trail, an offshoot of the 50-mile loop that will link together the city’s existing trails and create new pedestrian and cycling access through the Trinity Forest.

Creekside Park, which Tim broke the news about earlier this week, will only be accessible by way of the concrete Trinity Spine Trail that runs adjacent to it. Inside those 50 acres will be five miles of trail and a separate skills park, all of which will be designed for low- and moderately-skilled riders.

“The LOOP is really bringing new greenspace activation opportunities to Dallas,” says Philip Hiatt Haigh, the executive director of the Circuit Trail Conservancy, which is building the LOOP. “We’re helping realize the Park Department’s long-term vision.”

That vision goes back to 1966, when the city of Dallas began buying wooded parcels of land south of White Rock Lake. By the early 2000s, the city had amassed about 50 acres in this little corner of East Dallas. About four of those acres are an open stretch beyond the trees—that will be where the mountain biking skills course is, filled with hills and jumps.

It’s basically been raining in Dallas since 8 a.m., the type of slow and steady downpour that soaks deep into our soil and helps to bust the drought. (By the way, North Texas is now in the weakest drought condition, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s great news.)

Rain alone can make it miserable to be outside on two feet, but downspouts spewing runoff onto the sidewalk seems especially cruel. The photo above this post is on the Ervay edge of First Baptist Dallas. And while it’s absolutely in no way the only downspout that is relieving itself of water in downtown, it seems to be depositing far more of it than its brethren. There’s so much water that it’s pooling on the sidewalk instead of making it down the drainage gate.

Anyway. Just another day on two feet in Dallas. Enjoy your weekend. Stay dry.


How Dallas Should Fix Dealey Plaza

Tim Rogers
By |
Mark Lamster's plan dropped October 23 in the Arts & Life section.

I’ve been meaning to mention something for the past week. Now that we’ve finished some work on our “print product,” I have a moment to say: you need to read this special report published by the Morning News and helmed by its architecture critic, Mark Lamster. “Reinventing Dealey Plaza” is a major piece of civic journalism that deserves lots of attention and maybe even a community presentation and panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, at the Sixth Floor Museum (sign up here).

Major aside that I almost certainly should have resisted the urge to include: I wasn’t sure how best to share the report with you. The News just reported its dismal third-quarter results, and they indicate a dwindling number of you will encounter the printed Arts & Life version of Lamster’s work. The paper lost $2.6 million in the three-month period that ended September 30, on revenue of $37.7 million. Revenue from digital-only subscribers rose by $1 million, but print subscription revenue dropped $900,000. The paper has 144,631 total subscribers, adding in the third quarter 1,484 digital subscribers but losing 2,918 print subscribers. Anyway, “Reinventing Dealey Plaza” lies behind a paywall. This is one of the reasons you should subscribe to the paper if you can afford it.

Still with me? Here’s how Lamster begins his report:

“The time has come for Dallas to redesign Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass, which together represent one of the city’s most profound urban failings.