CityMAP: Congestion Mitigation in the Dallas City Core, Part 1

CityMAP main graphic 1

Last night I attended the first public roundup for the CityMAP project.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, neither had I until 72 hours ago.  Turns out it’s a framework for traffic mitigation and neighborhood revitalization that’s been put together for the past 15 months based on input from people who know about traffic and neighboring residents.  So far, it’s unlike the crony-driven Preston Center plan.  CityMAP is based more on research than avarice.

And … oh my … is there research.  There’s a 15-page summary for the kiddies or the 351-page doorstop for the minutia-driven.

Guess what I read?  Yup.  Both.  What can I say, I need more fiber in my diet.

Before I get too far in, don’t expect a bloodbath from me.  There’s only one plan component that I question and just one scenario I think is totally doolally … but it’s the internet, so I have to tease you into reading more.

Here’s the low-down.  Dallas’ population is forecast to grow by another 220,000 from 2015-2020 and another quarter mil-ish each decade until 2050.  In raw numbers, your dating options will grow from today’s 2.4 million residents to 3.31 million in 2050 – a 40 percent increase. Meanwhile, the Metroplex is forecast to grow by 3.7 million to a shade over 10 million.  In addition to expanding your love life, it will also expand your likelihood of dying in the hookah of exhaust fumes from increasing traffic.

CityMAP has researched what levers they can pull over the coming decades on the highways surrounding the Dallas city core that dampen the resulting snarl as best they can. Now before you get your hopes up, at the current moment there’s no way to reduce overall traffic with so many ‘tude-y Californians and chilly Yankees moving in.

We’re talking mitigate, not eradicate. 

The average age of the interstate corridors in the CityMAP study area is over 40 years.

The average age of the interstate corridors in the CityMAP study area is over 40 years.

The areas with the most potential impact are:

  • I-30 between I-35E and I-45 (the city core and The Cedars built in 1965)
  • I-30 between I-45 and Bass Pro Drive and US 80 from I-30 to FM 460 (Fair Park, Deep Ellum-ish built in 1963/64)
  • I-30 relocated between I-35E and I-45 to waaaaay south Dallas
  • I-35E from Reunion Boulevard to US 67 US 67 from I-35E to I-20 (Dallas Zoo-ish area built in 1959)
  • I-35E from Reunion Boulevard to Oak Lawn Avenue (reconnecting the Design District built in 1959)
  • I-45/US-75 separating the city core and Deep Ellum (built in 1973)

As you know, the city’s noose of highways were built during a time when today’s Dallas was apparently unimaginable.  In cities across the globe, highways were built for the car with the neighborhoods they then drove through being damned.  This usually meant there being, like train tracks, a wrong side of the highway to be on.

For example, I-30 was designed when no one saw anything wrong with scraping a dagger-nailed finger across grandma’s birthday cake. The same can be said for many of the highways encircling the city.  I-45 was likely built to remove people from Houston and deposit them in Dallas. After we’d had enough of them, US-75 was built to take them the rest of the way to Oklahoma (the resulting amputation of south Dallas was probably viewed as a plus).

The only exception I can think of is I-35E.  After all, Victory Park was originally industrial and Deep Ellum East the Design District was warehouses (Remember: Riverfront used to be called Industrial Boulevard for a reason).  Putting a highway down the middle back then didn’t do much except bring better transportation for the industrial businesses that lined the riverside.

We only care about integrating the Design District because of the recent growth of the pseudo chic-erie of “authentic living” (to borrow from Edina Monsoon, the folks who’re so organic they only eat food with the dirt still on it).

Unless we do something, we’ll be wearing Depends and ordering highway Domino’s by drone while enduring ever increasing hours and hours of traffic.

Congestion analysis over time and how it could be mitigated by each of CityMAP's recommendations.

Congestion analysis over time and how it could be mitigated by each of CityMAP’s recommendations.

Many of the scenarios comprise differing ways of expanding and burying the roadways out of sight (the right thing). However, what I think they miss is the ultimate solution.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of burying something, I think of digging a hole, dropping something in and covering it up.  Most of the CityMAP recommendations call for digging a trench, dropping the roadway, but only covering it in select areas (a la Klyde Warren).

Yes, covering is expensive, but so what?  It’s still the right answer.  Think about it.  Ground-level or elevated highways are physical, visual and auditory barriers.  In other words, they’re hard to cross, they’re ugly, and they’re noisy.

By submerging highways, you make them easier to cross while reducing the visual and auditory ugliness.  But if highways were buried and covered, they’d be easier to cross, attractive, and silent.  Truly healing the city’s highway scars.

Stay tuned for part two where I offer specific thoughts on some of the plan options. (Honestly, most don’t need my help.)

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

6 Comment

  • mm

    A special round of thanks to Jon for attending this meeting while SOME of us were sipping vino and regaling the beauty of the Snake River Sporting Club at the Mansion. I know, someone has to do it. Happy to report he did get some Mansion time after this. But question: all this talk of burying highways. It does look better, but how do they deal with the exhaust and fume mitigation? Do they have back up systems to the back-up? As someone just a bit claustrophobic I wonder about this.

    • So far there is very little highway covering in their report. It’s my suggestion. Exhausting exhaust in tunnels seems like cracked code considering all the tunnels around the world. After all, NYCs Holland tunnel was built in 1927/ And perhaps keeping the claustrophobic off the roads is another way to reduce congestion? 🙂

  • One of the simplest solutions to traffic congestion is the facilitate some staggering of office hours. Does it make sense for almost everyone in the working world to go to work at 8:30 and to get off at 5?

    After all, does’t 90 percent of the working world spend most of the first hour at the office catching up on email?

    Think of what a relief it would be more enlightened corporate bosses simple had their charges check their email from home before they arrive at work.

    In four decades of living on the perimeter of the global TI headquarters, the aggregate number of traffic jams
    observed at the gates to get into there was zero. Perhaps we could pick up on TI’s best practice on staggering employee work schedules to mitigate the oppressed and overcrowded highways that are underfunded as we only pay twenty cents per gallon of gas to cover capital outlays and maintenance.

    • That, or institute large-scale work from home options for employees. I’ve worked from home for 9 years as part of a European company. Stress down, gasoline bill down, hours worked up. Everyone wins, except perhaps commercial real estate owners.

      • mm

        Love working from home. When I worked downtown, I lost 2 + hours each day in commuting and parking. My commute is only 15 minutes but 45 plus to find a dang parking place in downtown Dallas.