There is big progress to see but also remaining expectations among neighbors for the ongoing replacement of the S.M. Wright Freeway in South Dallas.
A direct connection from the C.F. Hawn US 175 Freeway to I-45 removed a so-called “Deadman’s Curve” that was at the southern end of S.M. Wright Freeway.
Promised years ago with that change was removal of the high-speed freeway lanes and converting S.M. Wright feeder roads to a tree-lined boulevard.
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Most of the freeway lanes have been removed now and trees have been planted from around Pine Street south.
“It’s looking better already than what it was,” said Pastor Joe Patterson.
For 32 years, Patterson has watched the corner of S.M. Wright and Pine Street from Greater New Zion Baptist Church.
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He grew up in the neighborhood and recalls how it was divided by construction of what was then called the South Central Expressway in the 1950s.
Now, he sees a man on a bicycle safety cross in the middle of a block, where he said several people died over the years in accidents trying to cross on foot.
“They would take a chance because sometimes it was busy and sometimes it wasn’t. But you would always take a chance going across the freeway,” Patterson said.
He also recalls a fancy rendering for the corner of Pine and S.M. Wright that showed arch-type structures and a gathering spot that has not been built.
Patterson said there were other plans that forecast new businesses and homes along the new street and on parallel Lamar Street, now called Botham Jean Boulevard.
“So they could walk from where they live to their workplace. It was beautiful the way it was presented,” Patterson said.
Contractors are also still using one of the church parking lots where Patterson said repaving is promised.
State highway people say the job is not done yet.
Barricades are still in place for portions of the roadway further north of Pine Street.
Texas Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Alice Rios Shaw Thursday said utility replacement and railroad crossing complications contributed to a year of delay.
“We are completing the parts of this project that we are responsible for and then the other stakeholders are completing the rest,” she said.
What has been a state highway will be turned over to the city of Dallas for maintenance once the current construction project is completed.
Young trees that have been planted in the parkway and more to come will need ongoing care to become the big beautiful trees in renderings.
The state people say that will be the city of Dallas' responsibility.
“Based on what was promised and what we see now, like I say, we have a long way to go. But I’m hoping and thinking that it will all come out the way they said it would,” Patterson said.
Dallas City Councilmember Adam Bazaldua who represents the neighborhood said he was unavailable for an interview Thursday but by text, he said he is watching closely to see what happens, too.
“Absolutely, this not only is a huge improvement and welcomed change from the community. This is also a commitment to maintaining and seeing this project to its full potential,” Bazaldua said.
The project also includes a new connection to I-45 at the north end of S.M. Wright and reconstruction.
Shaw said completion is now expected by the summer or fall of 2024.