Downtown Dallas highway could get a major makeover

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Alvin Mancilla is a server and bartender at Cane Rosso Pizza on Commerce Street in Deep Ellum, which sits right below I-345.

He relies on the highway to get to and from work every day. 

“Literally takes me two minutes, as soon as I get to I-35, I just exit, it makes my commute easier,” he said.

After years of studying the future of the highway, TxDOT is making a recommendation for the 1.5-mile-long elevated highway that connects Central Expressway to I-30 and runs between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum.

TxDOT would lower the highway so that it’s below city streets.

The highway would have the same number of lanes as now and would still allow for 180,000 vehicles to use it every day just like now.

From a real-world perspective, TxDOT’s proposal for I-345 would look a lot like Central Expressway in Dallas. 

That highway is below ground, and the city streets go right over it.

TxDOT presented its proposal to the Dallas City Council late Wednesday afternoon.

Tony Hartzel, director, Northeast Texas Communications for TxDOT told CBS 11 the agency chose this option over keeping the elevated highway as is and eliminating it altogether and just leaving a grid of city streets. 

“It is kind of the best of both worlds where we’re maintaining that traffic, three lanes in each direction and in keeping the city streets network active and open and also just re-knitting the community on both sides of the highway,” Hartzel said.

He said eliminating the highway would have increased travel times by 40% to 50% during peak times during the morning and afternoon commutes.

Under the agency’s recommended option, Hartzel said there would be a slight increase in travel times for commuters.

He said their recommendation for I-345 would no longer feature any exit or entrance ramps.

But he said there would be new access to that area once I-30 is completely redone in several years between I-35E and I-45, an area of downtown Dallas known as the “Canyon.” 

TxDOT said the city could build a deck park over a new I-345, similar to the popular Klyde Warren Park, or allow buildings to be developed.     

The new highway could cost $1 billion but there’s no funding for it yet.

TxDOT is looking for support from Dallas city leaders, who could keep the agency’s proposal or make changes.

Alvin Mancilla says a lowered highway could bring more customers to his restaurant and others in Deep Ellum. 

“Lately, I feel Deep Ellum has been getting slow because of the crime and maybe if they see there’s more development going on, people will feel safer coming down because they’ll think Deep Ellum has not been forgotten by Dallas,” Mancilla said.

He said he would be concerned about construction making his daily commute longer but that it’s a short-term problem worth the trouble. 

“Got to look to the future, look at it long-term,” he said. “I feel it will be worth it for Deep Ellum.” 

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