DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For years, a debate has been simmering over the future of a Dallas interstate many know by sight, but not by name.
On Monday evening, TxDOT began holding the first of several meetings this week about I-345.
The 1.4 mile long highway connects Central Expressway and I-45 and extends from Woodall Rogers Freeway south to I-30 along the east side of downtown Dallas.
Despite how short in length the highway is, TxDOT says about 180,000 vehicles use it every day.
Some, like Democratic State Senator Royce West of Dallas, say the highway is important to the city’s future because it allows people who live in the southern sector of the city to drive into downtown or points north relatively quickly.
But others, like Patrick Kennedy, want it to disappear.
For ten years, Kennedy has wanted to demolish I-345, saying it is often backed up during rush hour, and instead, should be replaced with a normal street grid.
“To me it’s a worthwhile trade off to be moving at a steady 25 mph through these corridors to have the jobs, housing, and amenities closer to the southern sector,” said Kennedy.
Senator West said, “If we are talking about slowing traffic down and having a series of lights I’m not for that because that obviously impedes the flow of traffic and also the timing.”
TxDOT says it will take two years to study what to do with the highway: Either keep it as is or submerge it and have connector streets over it, like was done to Central Expressway years ago.
Another option is to remove some of the on and off ramps to free up land to develop and a final option is to demolish it altogether and use a street grid.
A spokesman for TxDOT’s Dallas office, Tony Hartzel said, “The impact of the traffic is going to be one of the major concerns that we’re going to look at. We want to understand where the traffic would go.”
When asked where the 180,000 vehicles would go under his plan, Kennedy said, “A quarter of that (45,000 vehicles) is cut through traffic and they can use I-635 especially, as were expanding I-635 and Loop-9 around the city.”
Kennedy said three six lane boulevards could each handle about 40,000 vehicles.
He said TxDOT would also have to expand Riverfront Blvd, which is west of I-35E near downtown Dallas.
But Senator West said that plan doesn’t work for him and others. “One discussion that’s a nonstarter for me is to send traffic from my Senatorial district around the city of Dallas and order go to work.”
TxDOT just spent $30 million to extend the life of I-345 for another 20 to 25 years.
Here are the details on the meetings happening this week:
Debates over highways are not only happening here, but reportedly in cities across the U.S. including Detroit, Tampa, Baltimore and Syracuse, New York.