Dallas has greenlit a Texas Department of Transportation recommendation to remodel Interstate 345 despite calls from some to take another year to keep studying other options.
The Dallas City Council voted 14-0 Wednesday for the state transportation department to move forward with tearing down the 1.4-mile elevated highway that runs between downtown and Deep Ellum and rebuilding it in a below-grade trench with new street overpasses above. The council added several conditions to its support, such as a council committee being briefed by TxDOT on the project’s progress once every six months while its being designed, that TxDOT incorporates city policies and strategies like the racial equity plan and economic development policy into the project, and that the state transit agency study ways to reroute trucks off I-345.
The council also told City Manager T.C. Broadnax to look into whether Dallas can get federal funding to pay for a new study examining alternative options for the future of I-345. The council also approved a condition that the city can withdraw its support of TxDOT’s recommendation at any time based on the results of this possible study and finding money to pay for other alternatives.
TxDOT has led public discussions on how to reconfigure the 50 year old freeway since at least 2012, saying something needed to be done because it would eventually cost too much to maintain the roadway as is. Remodeling the highway is believed to be a key way to reconnect Deep Ellum and southern Dallas to the city’s downtown core, but for years there hasn’t been a consensus for Dallas on how to get there.
Many have pointed to the highway as an example of government-sanctioned segregation where freeways were built running through or walling off historically Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, such as Deep Ellum.
Council member Jaime Resendez said he believes the hybrid option addresses several concerns related to economic development, housing and other issues impacted by the highway’s current configuration. He pointed to possible legal concerns of getting rid of the highway and TxDOT analysis showing that option causing an up to 50% increase in peak commute times as reasons to reject a removal option.
“I-345 should probably never have been built and it’s a tragedy that it destroyed minority neighborhoods when it was constructed 50 years ago,” said Resendez, who represents the Pleasant Grove area in southeast Dallas. “However, turning the highway into a boulevard would not bring those neighborhoods back or guarantee equitable development.”
He said it would take more time and investment in southern Dallas before the highway is no longer needed.
TxDOT officials have said they support their recommendation, dubbed the hybrid option, because their studies have shown it’s the best way to maintain traffic connections between southern and northern Dallas while providing new opportunities like street connections for pedestrian and bike access over the freeway as well as possibly building new deck parks. The agency refer to it as a “hybrid” because it combines elements of other proposals to lower the highway and add more street connections.
I-345 runs between I-30 and Woodall Rodgers Freeway, connecting I-45 to U.S. 75.
TxDOT officials have said they won’t support paying for or seeking state and federal money to pay for removing the highway. say the next steps in the process includes an environmental analysis of the project, which could take two years. Construction could start in 2028 or 2029. It’s estimated to cost $1 billion.
Ceason Clemens, Dallas district engineer for TxDOT, said Wednesday that the next phase is estimated to cost $20 million. If the city were to later withdraw support for the hybrid option, Clemens said TxDOT would seek the city reimbursing the agency for any work done at that point.
This story will be updated.