North Texas Daily

Tearing down I-345 helps right past racist wrongs

Tearing down I-345 helps right past racist wrongs

Tearing down I-345 helps right past racist wrongs
September 29
12:00 2022

On paper, Interstate 345 in central Dallas seems fairly trivial. Stretching 1.4 miles through downtown, the road is practically an afterthought when compared to the monumental scale of the entire interstate highway system.

I-345 serves primarily to connect two more important highways, I-45 and Central Expressway, which is too short to even have its own sign and does little to stand out. Like most functional infrastructure, commuters simply use it and move on with their days. 

To those that live near it, I-345 is anything but forgettable. The huge concrete and asphalt structure has defined their lives and served as a blemish upon their neighborhoods for decades. With the massive bridges the highway runs on approaching the end of their service lives, community advocates have pushed for a blunt but effective solution. 

First proposed by urban planner Patrick Kennnedy the highway should be torn down and replaced with a surface-level parkway. Such a measure may seem drastic, but it’s entirely justifiable considering the damage I-345 has done and the benefits of its destruction.

To understand how the road causes so many issues, it’s worth considering the legacy of racial policies that motivated its current state. In the mid-20th century, when much of the interstate network was being designed, the routes through cities were often designed with the explicit purpose of destroying prosperous Black neighborhoods.

When combined with the trend of white homeowners moving to segregated suburbs, these demolitions and mass evictions result in cascades of misery. Evicted residents are forced to move to inner cities and “second ghettos” where the wealth and tax revenue of white residents are no longer present. This results in neglected, segregated neighborhoods that produce high crime, poverty and little outside investment.

In Dallas, I-345 is a prime example of this detestable trend. The highway as we know it today, with its elevated lanes and massive footprint, was built in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It divided Downtown Dallas from Deep Ellum, a neighborhood known as a center of Black culture. Large sections of the neighborhood were bulldozed to make way for the highway, and what remained was years of economic destitution before being gentrified in the 1990s and losing much of its original identity. 

The highway continues to burden the surrounding community — it is an eyesore, occupies 245 acres of prime real estate near downtown and encourages new residents to keep moving into neighborhoods far away from the city center. Demolishing the highway would solve these issues and new developments and investments would massively revitalize Deep Ellum and the inner city. 

Those 245 acres could accommodate 27,540 new residents and 22,500 new jobs, which would hugely benefit Dallas given the metro area’s rapidly growing population, according to D Magazine.

The demolition would allow for the grid of surface streets to be stitched back together, reconnecting east Dallas to Downtown, moving developments happening further north toward the city center and generating $4 billion in new investment and $100 million in property tax revenue. 

The idea of encouraging growth by removing highways has already been tried and tested in cities like Rochester, San Francisco and Boston. The demolition of I-345 would simply be executing a proven concept. 

Admittedly, not everyone is on board with the proposal, and one of the biggest concerns being traffic. I-345 carries over 180,000 cars daily, and the Texas Department of Transportation estimated in 2021 removing the highway would cause 19,000 hours of increased traffic congestion per weekday.

The TxDOT favors a less viable and more expensive proposal to rebuild the highway in a 65-foot trench that barely solves the barrier issue. TxDOT’s predictions are vastly overblown — if I-345 is torn down, many commuters will seek new routes outside the city center and a reconstructed street grid will be able to handle the remaining traffic, according to the Toole Design Group.

Perhaps the most telling defense for keeping I-345 intact is that the removal will hurt residents of outlying regions of the city. This raises a question of priorities: why do remote residents matter more than those native to Downtown and Deep Ellum who continue to suffer from this highway’s existence? Those preferences created this mess, and in any case, adding a few minutes to commutes from north and south Dallas residents is a small price to pay for the massive benefits of removal.

Local groups like More Neighbors Dallas and Coalition for a New Dallas have been advocating for this teardown for years – it’d be wise to heed their advice and advocate for this measure ourselves. To preserve I-345 would be to preserve a monument to racism and economic paralysis.

Removing I-345 promises to bring new life to a region that’s been neglected for decades. The facts paint a clear picture: for the sake of our city, I-345 must fall.  

Featured Illustration by Isabella Isquierdo

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Ian Cropper

Ian Cropper

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