Here’s Why You Should Skip TXDoT’s Meetings on I-345 This Week

We are nowhere

Last night, TXDoT conducted their first community meeting as they explore what to do with I-345 – the highway at the eastern edge of downtown that connects I-45 and US-75. I’d guestimate some 250 people trekked to the St. Philip’s School and Community Center in Southern Dallas, and  I’d bet all of them were disappointed.

When I saw TXDoT was going to have five meetings – one north, one south, and three downtown – I thought I’d attend a few of them to see if the audience’s reactions changed based on location. I liked the potential for nuance, but I found that short of looking over someone’s shoulder while they filled in a survey, that goal was impossible. This made it pointless for me to attend more of the meetings.

The reason you shouldn’t go is that there’s nothing new to learn – not a scintilla. CandysDirt.com publisher Candy Evans and I have been writing about this since 2014 (here, here, here, here, here, and here). If you’ve read any of these articles, count yourself up to speed.

The purpose of the meetings appears to be two-fold – pretend all this hasn’t been said before and most importantly to get attendees to fill out a survey (which I encourage you to do in your fuzzy slippers online and save yourself the tedium – www.345study.com).

 

What happened to CityMAP?

Here’s the drill. You walk in and see various poster boards lining the room with various images on them. Before you begin, you’re given a red dot to place on a “thermometer” that gauges your understanding of the I-345 issue. I placed mine at “knows enough to be dangerous” because I assumed time and information had progressed since I last wrote about this in July 2016. As I moved through the poster board diorama I realized nothing had changed (maybe the traffic counts on one board).

I even asked one of the TXDoT representatives what was up. In 2016, this was part of the TXDoT’s CityMAP project that discussed all the major highways ringing Dallas. What had been done since CityMAP three years ago?  Short answer, nothing.

I was told of all the things they would be doing now. I stopped him and said, that’s all in the future, what about the last three years? Why hadn’t this meeting happened three months after the CityMAP meetings?  I was told it took three years for the I-345 project to finally bubble up to being a real project.

My mind was boggled by the inefficiency. And then we were told that even though this was a kick-off of sorts, there’s currently no budget associated with the project. That answer produced more than a few grumbles. It was explained that the plan needed to be devised now so that when monies were available they could grab them – and that makes some sense, but would have sounded better had there been an inkling of a timeline associated with when monies were expected to become available – a week, a year, a decade?

It really comes down to a waste of time. Since 2014, shockingly little has been done and yet “here we are”, still at the beginning.  All we know is that sometime within the next 25 years I-345 will reach the end of its lifespan (barring Band-Aids). And sometime before that point, TXDoT will have to either continue to fix it or do something.

We also know that TXDoT has a process in these things. There’s a seven-part process of which the four-parts – define, develop, refine and deliver – are part of the feasibility study phase. How long will each of these seven-stages (of grief?) take?  No answer. If we assume “Identify Need” occurred sometime before the 2014 meetings, these seven steps could easily take longer than the remaining useful life of I-345.

Appalling Inefficiency

After aimlessly wandering around the poster board, you find the “presentation” is only for the blind and literal illiterates in the room. The 22-page PowerPoint you’re handed when you entered is simply read aloud – word-by-word. There are no questions or comments allowed. TXDoT did offer the mic to State Senator Royce West (who’s rightly against dismantling I-345) and two city council members, to comment on the project. None came to the mic – which meant they weren’t asked to prepare.

From the start of the presentation to starting my car, 18 minutes elapsed. And that included placing an orange sticker on another thermometer to show how much I learned – I placed mine at the bottom.

Just as there have been for five years now, there are four bad choices with the right one not listed.

  1. Leave it alone
  2. Almost the same, fiddle with some exits
  3. Bury it in an open trench (e.g. Woodall Rodgers pre-Klyde Warren)
  4. Remove it to reconnect neighborhoods while sending 180,000 cars careening through surface roads before re-meeting the highway 1.25 miles away – every frigging day.

Developers want #4 because all the land freed from highways could be purchased at a TXDoT yard sale and redeveloped.

BUT the “right” answer can be found in any cat’s litter box – dig a hole, do what you have to, and cover it up. Or more elegantly, combine numbers three and four. It preserves a needed traffic artery connecting two busy highways while re-stitching neighborhoods torn apart by race and concrete (you know, now that more white folks are living in Deep Ellum).

Look for our coverage to resume in 2024 on this rapidly changing story.


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

22 Comment

  • Thanks for attending the meeting and giving us a recap. I was planning to attend the meeting on Tuesday night and so now I know not to waste my time. Thanks again.

  • Excellent assessment! Thank you!

  • Jon – We both know the entire load of traffic from the tear down won’t go onto surface streets. Or I guess if you don’t understand how traffic reallocates itself in these situations you shouldn’t be writing about it.

    • mm

      True, but where will it go? To all those underutilized roadways ringing the city? Removing doesn’t fix a problem, it makes local traffic crappy and reroutes some to other roadways to make them more crappy than they are today. It doesn’t just disappear.

  • Thank you! I actually had this on my calendar but was suspicious that I would come away with anything other than disappointment. You have confirmed my suspicions.

    Not sure why the oh-so progressive elites keep saying that 345 provides the “noose” around downtown – last time I checked a noose is a full circle so it’s unclear as to how Woodall, 35E, or 30 manage to avoid the noose label…..

    • mm

      I-345 is part of the noose that surrounds the city. The “noose” is Woodall Rodgers, 35E, 75/45/345 and I-30. TXDoT has projects in the works for these as well.

  • Thanks for background and survey link. I’ve completed mine.

    My final comment was: “This has been an incredibly slow process (beginning in 2014, I believe). The slow pace of planning and implementation would not be tolerated in a corporate environment.”

    • apples and oranges. Don’t confuse utilities markets with free markets, they’re legally and economically distinct. It shows poor understanding of economics when one conflates disparate markets

  • “re-stitching neighborhoods torn apart by race and concrete”
    from recent stories about Deep Ellum developments it appears that I-45 hasn’t hampered recent developments
    This isn’t really about “re-stitching neighborhoods” it is about seeing the new urbanists wet dream come to fruition

    • mm

      As you see, I’m not for removal, I’m for burying the roadway so traffic can flow while covering it with spaces that do reconnect the neighborhoods. Re-stitching means people would walk or bike from one to the other. The current highway doesn’t do that very well.

  • Disagree. It was great to go and listen to the Q& A fireworks with Royce West. But the automatic assumption that “Developers want #4 because all the land freed from highways could be purchased at a TXDoT yard sale and redeveloped” is not known and a reckless jump to conclusion. Its most likely Txdot would address this with the city first. And as much of that land would be in a TIF district, there are opportunities for affordable housing.

    • mm

      I have no idea where you were. There was no Q&A for the presentation – the one question that was asked was answered saying they weren’t taking questions. You could ask questions of those manning the poster boards, but that’s it. I would have welcomed West taking the microphone.
      .
      What I said about the yard sale was told to me by one of the staffers. TXDoT would sell the land if the roadway were removed to the city of Dallas who would in turn resell it for development. What strings (TIFs, etc.) would be attached, are unknown.

  • Well, at least now I know where to go to find some sanity about I-345. Wick Allison and his cool kids cohort would wreak more havoc upon this city than Vincent Ponte and his Tunnel Terrorists did fifty years ago. Regressing to the 1960’s is not going to solve ANY problems in Dallas–traffic or social or economic. I remember when Central Expressway and Pearl Expressway and Good Latimer Expressway were the surface streets these folks are talking about. The problems these surface roads caused were the reasons that I-345 was built. As they say, “Been there, done that.”

  • Jon,
    Thanks for your comments, they clarified my experiences from last night.

    I was told that this was the very beginning of the process & I disagreed saying that I learned of the plan about five-seven years ago. It didn’t seem honest that we would be making the first comments that would by used to flesh out several alternative. When has the city asked us first. I don’t remember anything on the survey that discussed the option of an underground tunnel to take drivers from I-75 to I-40 or I-45. Knowing there is a group already proposing that along with plans by Patrick Kennedy and Senator West’s son with
    ideas. How is this a blank slate now.

    After doing the survey, I was told that we were talking to TxDot and their engineering consultants and not with the city. I had assumed both were involved. As Jon says the participants did not have advance information to brainstorm before sitting to write down ideas. People need some basic ideas before asking for ours.

  • I’ve long been for burying it. It gives you the surface with a park over the highway. That park could easily be connected to the KATY trail. I agree with the scarring nature of the status quo, the opportunity for development; yet the traffic demand can’t be as easily dismissed as the “good neighborhood” advocates. They don’t have a good comparable highway removal to point to, but examples where a last mile or two of a terminating highway was removed, this is a major thru-way. If you don’t think that traffic is important, ask Jefferson TX.