As you undoubtedly know, the city of Dallas celebrated the opening of Klyde Warren Park in October. The green expanse stretching over Woodall Rodgers Freeway brought 44,000 visitors on opening weekend to the nexus of Uptown and downtown. A wonderful achievement, indeed. But what if I told you that for the same cost, Dallas could have three or four more new urban parks plus generate $4 billion in private investment? All we have to do is get creative with a short stretch of highway.
IH-345 is the obscure official name for the sinuous, 1.4-mile elevated freeway that runs between downtown and Deep Ellum. It connects 75 to I-30 and I-45. It’s on year 39 of a 40-year lifespan and has already been repaired three times in the past 12 years. It has 487 fatigue cracks and spot welds. The Texas Department of Transportation has offered two recommendations: either keep repairing the old road or rebuild it entirely, at a price likely in the hundreds of millions. There is a third option, though, and it’s not getting the consideration it deserves.
As an urban designer, I’ve been thinking about this highway for quite a while. Two years ago, a friend in real estate development and I were critiquing the various plans for downtown. No proposal to date effectively flipped what we saw as an upside-down real estate market. Land costs are too high, and demand is too low. The costs are driven up by owners holding underdeveloped land as they wait for a windfall when the next high-rise condominium tower lands on their parking lot. And demand is low because freeways have funneled it away from the city, out to the suburbs. So my friend and I began a two-year study of the IH-345 area, its traffic patterns, and the potential for redevelopment. Our conclusion: the highway should be torn down.