Growing movement to remove elevated interstate in downtown Dallas

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Highways and freeways were part of a building boom in Dallas during the twentieth century, but now there's a growing movement to give parts of the city a more neighborly feel.

A key part of the plan would tear down Interstate 345, the 1.3 mile elevated highway that connects I-45 and I-30 with Woodall Rodgers and Highway 75. But the small segment also cuts off neighborhoods from downtown.

Contrary to what drivers may think, experts say taking out an interstate like I-345 actually results in traffic moving better on the city's own network of streets.        

“The limited access highway in the city actually causes congestion in the city,” said planning consultant Peter Park.

When Park was the planning director in Milwaukee, he oversaw the removal of an elevated downtown highway similar to the current I-345, located between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum.

“There are examples around the world, where we have taken freeways out of cities and it gets better,” Park said.

Two commonly cited examples: dramatic changes in Seoul and San Francisco where freeways were replaced with space for varied forms of transportation and greenspace.

“We are used to a mindset if we have traffic and traffic congestion, the singular solution has been, it's never worked, is to expand the highway, add more lanes, but it has never worked for us,” Park said. “We have 20-lane highways in major cities in the U.S. Do they experience congestion? Absolutely.”

Park says a network of city streets is able to move people better at rush hour than a limited access freeway.

“When there is an accident on a city street, you just turn off, next street, go around it, but it can't happen on limited access freeway you are stuck until then next exit,” Park said.

As for I-345, the city of Dallas owns 60 of the 245 acres surrounding it.

Matt Trachin, president of Coalition For A New Dallas, says tearing the interstate down creates an opportunity to transform Dallas.

“I-345 represents the greatest economic development, mobility and quality of life opportunity in the city of Dallas. You're looking at 245 acres surrounding that 1.3 mile highway corridor, billions of dollars, 20,000 jobs, 18,000 residents, 12,000 housing units, enormous amounts of green space, that is all per TxDOT study,” Tranchin said.

Dallas' assistant city manager told FOX4 that unlike in the past, Dallas is working to take a leadership role in what happens with major highways as TxDOT considers a redesign of I-30 and I-345. Other options being considered include tunneling I-345 underground.