City Council Debates Future of I-345

Hybrid alternative from presentation | Image by Texas Department of Transportation

The Dallas City Council is divided on how to pursue the future of Interstate 345 — the 1.4-mile highway that cuts through the City and connects Interstate 24 to U.S. Route 75.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recommended a hybrid plan for the highway, but some council members expressed reservations about that plan during a council briefing on Wednesday.

Council members are scheduled to vote on whether to support TxDOT’s plan at next Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The hybrid plan would trench the highway 65 feet below ground and construct cross streets at ground level above the highway.

TxDOT claims this plan would remove the “perceived barrier” between Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum, according to a presentation delivered to council members by Assistant City Manager Robert Perez and TxDOT’s Dallas District Engineer Ceason Clemens.

Other potential futures for I-345 include leaving the highway as is, elevating it, or removing it entirely to replace it with a boulevard.

Clemens said TxDOT would help provide funding for the project if the hybrid option was supported but that it might not provide funding for the other plans.

In fact, she said if the City moved forward with the boulevard option, financing the project would be left entirely in the hands of the City.

Council Member Chad West, who supports the boulevard option, began Wednesday’s discussion by raising various concerns about the hybrid option.

“If you flipped this discussion on its head, and TxDOT wanted to build a new one-mile highway through one of our neighborhoods, we would be throwing every policy we have at staff to stop it,” he said. “And we would eviscerate anyone who came here to support the highway.”

“But we can’t as a body seem to wrap our minds around the scenario today — a removal that would restitch neighborhoods, bring more jobs, housing, and connections to downtown,” West continued.

Council Member Gay Donnell Willis suggested tabling the item for another year to gather more information before the council votes.

Clemens argued that the delay would make it “more difficult” for the City to acquire funding for the project and make the project itself “more expensive” as construction costs continue to rise.

She noted that if the City declined to vote in favor of the hybrid option on Wednesday, it would signal to the state and outside funding sources that the council was not confident in the project’s future, which could potentially jeopardize funding.

Clemens added that the “best-case scenario” has construction on the project beginning in five to six years.

Council Members Jaime Resendez, Adam Bazaldua, Omar Narvaez, and Cara Mendelsohn also spoke in favor of moving forward with the hybrid option.

The Dallas Express will continue to report on the I-345 project as the council votes on its future next week.

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