Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Assemble the Troops: IH-345 Feasibility Study

As you may know, a developer friend and I put together a study and plan to tear out IH-345.  This is the section of highway you might consider the extension of Central Expressway past downtown separating downtown from Deep Ellum and the rest of East Dallas.  You can find the presentation for that study here.  The first half or so is all the background theory supporting the concept and you can skip right past that to the juicy details at the end showing what kind of economic development potential exists, where the traffic goes, and all the new opportunities for walkable urban housing (including affordable housing), and new downtown adjacent population and tax base would come of such a plan.

(Also, here are two posts where I show what happens to the lost traffic that 345 currently moves:
part 1
part 2)

What's funny is, we submitted several FOIA requests to see if TxDOT had anything in the works regarding this section of highway as we knew it was structurally deficient, the things that happen when elevated, reinforced concrete structures hit about 40 years old, as this road is.  However, we never received any responses until Gabe, the creator of the facebook page on Tearing out 345 came across the public meeting announcement for a feasibility study of IH-345.  It's December 11th out near Love Field, which is kind of bizarre, in that you'd think you would have it on-site or nearby (unless of course they don't want a big turn-out, which is my cynical side talking).

At this point, we have no idea what options are under consideration.  However, we can be pretty confident in two things: 1) that the viaduct is structurally unsound, and 2) this will be used as an opportunity to "improve" the section of highway and "reduce congestion," which as you know is utter bunk.  The very nature of a city is about congestion, of people coming together for social and economic exchange.  Attempting to reduce congestion is 1) throwing the baby out with the bathwater (the city as a platform of economic growth and improved quality of life), and 2) chasing your tail, due to our very nature as humans and cities as a human investion to facilitate the above.  We want to come together.  We need to come together.

The only real question to ask is, what kind of congestion do we want?  The good kind, which provides tax base and populates businesses and is desirable to live near, thus turning the real estate market inward?  Or the kind that is entirely car-based, is on highways, sucks the life from neighborhood streets, is unsafe, and moves the real estate market ever outward?

There is no downside to a tear-out that not only pays for itself, but through land sales from opening up right-of-way and increased tax base, can pay for just about every other pet project in the city.  There is however, downside to presumably every other option that will be presented.
Oh, and here's a fun/stupid study from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank showing that federal highway grants are good for short-term economic growth.  Wow! Who'da thunk dumping free money into an area as well as temporary jobs and short-term real estate deals wouldn't?  Of course, as we know nothing is more expensive than free.  Hence, their leaving out any long-term implications (note the graph stops at year 10)