There’s been a bit of ruckus lately surrounding the unknown fate of the 1.4 miles of Interstate connecting U.S. 75 and I-45 in Dallas. Officially known as Interstate 345, most maps and even the signs on the road itself classify this short connector as Highway 75. However, its impact is much more significant than its presence on the maps. I-345 cuts right through downtown Dallas, and moves over 160,000 cars per day. This entirely elevated urban freeway is in dire need of repair, though.
I-345 has already been repaired 3 times in the past 12 years. It has hundreds of fatigue cracks and spot welds. TxDOT is considering two options: either continue to repair it or to rebuilt it entirely. Well, A New Dallas is offering a third option – to tear down the freeway and leave it that way. After all, what better way is there to reconnect downtown to Deep Ellum? Let’s take a look at the implications:
According to a statistic on the website for A New Dallas, 75% of traffic on I-345 is neither entering from nor exiting to downtown Dallas. While it seems like tearing down a major freeway such as this one would cause enormous traffic problems, the opposite is actually true. In the case of the West Side Highway in New York, 53 percent of vehicle traffic simply vanished once the highway collapsed and was never rebuilt. In short, the only reason people are travelling on this highway and many other urban highways if because of the fact that it’s there. Essentially, commuters are just using downtown Dallas as a bypass to wherever they need to go. If it is torn down, the remaining traffic will simply reroute to I-30 and I-35E, going around downtown instead of through it.
TxDOT is $17 billion in debt. It has no money to rebuild I-345 in downtown Dallas. Furthermore, throughout the site, there are a little over $81,000 in improvements per acre, which is less than most sprawl. Tearing down the freeway, in theory, would increase land values throughout the area significantly. Both improvements and tax revenue would increase, leading to a significant amount of money being put back into the city.
It’s no question that busy freeways contribute to unhealthy air conditions and increased ambient temperatures. A highway tear-down in Seoul, for example, led to an 8°F decrease in temperature in the area. Also, carcinogenic airborne particulate was reduced significantly. If I-345 was torn down and replaced with new parks and businesses, both environmental conditions and land values would improve.
These types of highway removals are becoming a bit of a trend in the United States and around the world, and for a good reason. Some current large-scale highway remove projects include those in Providence, Baltimore, and Oklahoma City, to name a few. The Oklahoma City project is particularly fascinating to me in particular. Interstate 40 was moved south and a gateway boulevard is being built in its place.
If it wasn’t already obvious, my answer to the question given in the title is a yes. In many situations, urban freeway removals are a boon to the local economy and public transportation systems and should be considered in many more cities across the world.
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