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.
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.
- Leave it alone
- Almost the same, fiddle with some exits
- Bury it in an open trench (e.g. Woodall Rodgers pre-Klyde Warren)
- 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 email@example.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.