Deep Ellum

New Dallas City Council Members to Face Controversies, Including I-345

State to offer new details on I-345 plans this month

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Four new Dallas City Council members were elected in Saturday’s run-off election. Three replace members who were term-limited, while two beat better-funded opponents.

Paul Ridley beat incumbent David Blewett to win the District 14 council seat.

Ridley said that Blewett and another challenger in the May primary both raised more election money than he did.

“This is very important to the future of Dallas, that qualified candidates can run and be successful without having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars provided that they listen to their constituents and they develop a message that resonates with them,” Ridley said.

He said he was pleased that two of the other winners overcame negative campaign attacks.

“People looked through the negative campaigning, they saw through it, and they looked instead to the issues,” he said.

Among the issues the new city council will face is the long-simmering debate over the idea of removing the elevated Downtown Dallas freeway known to highway planners at I-345.

The unmarked section of overpass links Interstate 45 to the south with Central Expressway to the north. It was built around 50 years ago and is nearing the end of its useful life.

A decade ago, the idea of removing it was largely considered crazy.

Since then, a group called the Coalition for a New Dallas has supported that alternative to reunite Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum that were divided by the elevated roadway. Supporters say the structure occupies land that could be better used for new development while still allowing transportation through the area.

“This is not just a transportation project. This is a city-building project,” Coalition president Matt Tranchin said.

In 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation gave credence to the alternative in a study called CityMAP.

TxDOT will hold public meetings on the latest options this month.

Tranchin said removing the overpass gains momentum with each city election and now a supermajority of the city council is on his side.

“Twelve of our incoming council members pledged their support for removing highway I-345,” Tranchin said.

Ridley said he sees strong points to replacing the roadway from the 1970s.  

“It has dedicated a lot of property to that transportation arterial that could probably be better used for additional housing and commercial development,” Ridley said.

One option is a below-grade roadway like much of the Central Expressway was constructed to the north. But below grade could conflict in the Deep Ellum area with plans for a new DART rail subway.

“The devil will be in the details as the say,” Ridley said.

All of the options could be very expensive but Tranchin said talk of big federal infrastructure spending makes the Dallas transportation transformation more feasible.

“It’s absolutely a once in a generation opportunity,” he said.

One of the three members not pledging support to Tranchin is Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. 

The Mayor’s office Monday said Johnson is waiting to see details on the options from state planners before taking a position on how to best move people and improve the city.

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