Thursday, April 21, 2011

Should Richardson Tear Out Central Expressway?

"Eisenhower, the father of the quite necessary INTERSTATE system, understood far better than anybody gives him credit or anybody involved with transportation planning/funding/building since, that INTRACITY freeways destroys the wealth of nations, the economies of cities."
-- Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy, Dallas urban designer and champion of tearing out Dallas's downtown freeways, argues that Eisenhower's interstate highway system was a good idea carried to a bad extreme. Building highways to connect cities, good. Building highways through downtowns, bad. IH45 between Dallas and Houston, good. R.L. Thornton, Stemmons, Woodall Rodgers, the Canyon, the Mixmaster, Project Pegasus, all bad, bad, bad.

After the jump, one man's intercity freeway is another man's intracity freeway.

I'm with Kennedy. Tear 'em out. But where to stop the freeway demolition? Kennedy, with his Dallas-centric view, stops somewhere around Loop 12. But why not at IH635? Or the Bush Tollway? Or Texas 121 in McKinney? Or maybe all the way to Sherman? As it is, US 75 splits cities from the Oklahoma border all the way to downtown Dallas.

Richardson has been split in half for fifty years by Central Expressway. Nothing Richardson has been able to do (or maybe even tried to do) has healed that gash. Now, imagine Richardson adopting Kennedy's ideas. Imagine Richardson putting traffic calming devices in place at the Bush Tollway and at the High Five, reducing the ten-lane Central Expressway into, say, a four-lane boulevard through Richardson, with bike lanes, tree-lined sidewalks and outdoor cafes? (Tree-the-Freeway, anyone?) Suddenly, Canyon Creek and Galatyn Park would be integrated. So would Highland Terrace and Richardson Heights. Residents of Dallas or Plano wanting to get to Richardson would still be able to take US 75 to the Richardson border and seamlessly funnel into Richardson's central boulevard. Residents of Richardson wanting intercity transit would still be able to hop on US 75 at either Richardson border and drive south to downtown Dallas or north to Oklahoma.

It sounds idyllic to me (and to Richardson). Maybe Kennedy can point out if I'm missing anything.

Regardless whether or not we end up thinking this is a good idea, here's an exercise for you to while away the time for a few hours. How many different government bodies would need to review and approve the project before the first jackhammer could break up the first bit of concrete?

P.S. Dwight Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, a long stone's throw from today's freeway, US 75. History doesn't say whether, when they moved to Kansas in 1892, his family traveled by interstate highway or by railroad. I like to imagine them going by car with young Ike, bumping along the road, saying to himself, "Somebody needs to pave these highways."

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