Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boosting LBJ/Skillman

Regular readers of this blog know of my frustration regarding Richardson's incomplete history of trying to redevelop the West Spring Valley corridor, the Main Street downtown area, and especially the neighborhoods surrounding the train stations along DART's Red Line.

Today, I turn your attention to another redevelopment challenge, this one just to Richardson's south in Lake Highlands. The Dallas Morning News has the story:
Construction could begin by late next year -- if additional funding becomes available -- on an overhaul of the confusing intersection between the LBJ Freeway and Skillman Street in Lake Highlands.
After the jump, my reaction.

If you're familiar with the tangled spaghetti of the LBJ/Skillman/Audelia intersection, you know how big a challenge redevelopment will be. LBJ freeway isn't going anywhere. If anything, when the huge LBJ Express reconstruction project eventually extends east, LBJ freeway is going to pose even more of a challenge for creating a livable, walkable neighborhood at Skillman.

My fear and expectation is that any overhaul of this tangle of streets will focus primarily on moving more cars through that intersection. That goal will work against any goal to make the neighborhood itself a destination for people to go to and not just to go through.

Still, there's a hidden gem in this neighborhood that could turn out to be the key to redevelopment. That's the LBJ/Skillman station on DART's Blue Line. Unless you actually ride the Blue Line, you probably have never even seen this DART station. It's not visible from LBJ, from Skillman St, from Audelia Rd, from Royal Ln or Miller Rd but it's easily accessible to all of these.

What it isn't necessarily accessible to are the surrounding neighborhoods. LBJ freeway forms a barrier to the neighborhoods south. Likewise, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway forms a barrier to the east, which contains mainly warehouses and light industry in any case. So integrating this DART station with the full neighborhood is going to be almost impossible (on the order of integrating Richardson's DART stations to the nearby neighborhoods west of Central Expressway). But there's still enough neighborhood inside these borders to hold out hope for something significant here.

It's worth noting that the money for this redevelopment project isn't available yet. So, if anything does ever happen here, it's more likely than not that the project will be scaled back to the minimum -- meaning a road widening project for "congestion relief" (a quixotic promise that). I wish Lake Highlands the best, but this is a bigger challenge than anything faced by Richardson, which itself still hasn't managed to crack the nut of transit-oriented development.

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