Let me tell you about this blogger I pay attention to and what he calls his “recurring fantasy” about tearing out a major freeway that goes right through the center of town.This guy writes a bit about transportation and has an eye for other community affairs I follow, like politics, city hall and development. In recent months he’s referenced highway tear-outs in other major cities, and wonders why it can’t happen here, especially since TxDOT is now studying options for improving, fixing or replacing this stretch of road.The freeway, he says, is an artificial barrier that chokes off the edge of downtown and divides the city. The freeway in question is North Central Expressway in Richardson, and the writer is Mark Steger. He would like to see Central disappear and replaced with a “boulevard that’s people-scaled” and a grand central park that would invite development alongside.
I’m sympathetic with the impulse, since it’s hard to love a freeway, especially this freeway. I live about a half-mile away, and the traffic translates into a constant low-level white noise that rivals the crickets in my backyard. I see the poor souls stuck in rush hour traffic there every morning on my way to the DART station to hop a train heading downtown. There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about the businesses lining the service roads.
Walking beneath the freeway, I can sense the soot and heat radiating from the 200,000-plus vehicles that grind past every day. The pounding manages to pound one thing into your brain: This is not a road for my neighborhood, nor should I expect it to be. We happen to live along a torrent of regional traffic. It’s not pretty, but neither are airports or landfills or many other facts of urban life. Dallas-area drivers spend an average of 28 minutes or so getting to work. About a quarter of the workforce has a higher pain threshold, and spends more than an hour on the road one way. This translates into freeway demand.
And for that reason my neighborhood freeway isn’t going anywhere. Steger allows as much when he refers to his tear-out campaign as a “Quixotic dream.”
At least, he avers, TxDOT’s exercise in collecting community input can raise the issue of how the next- generation Central Expressway can be more a good neighbor and less of what Steger calls a “road-widening, community-dividing, downtown-killing, multi-billion dollar TxDOT construction project.”
TxDOT’s meetings to collect community input will be next week in Allen and Richardson. I may see you there.