Dallas city leaders are fighting to save landscaping on the Central Expressway
The Texas Department of Transportation has removed landscaping in medians and wall plant boxes on Central between Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Mockingbird Lane to reduce maintenance expenses.
But some City Council members are disappointed in the move.
“There’s so much concrete in Dallas," Councilwoman Angela Hunt said. "To the extent that we can make it a little more green, we need to do that."
Irrigation that was installed in the '90s for those parts of the freeway did not work as planned.
“It’s about a seven-and-a-half mile stretch of roadway, and we have to feed it from the bridges and other locations,” said Pat Haigh, of TxDOT. “So it’s isolated, and it’s hard to maintain that.”
The state is offering several options for Central Expressway landscaping to the Dallas City Council Transportation and Environment committee.
“Hardscaping” with decorative concrete panels to replace plants in the median could be done with no annual cost to the city.
The city could also pay the state $750,000 a year to keep the existing landscape maintenance. Or it could pay $300,000 a year to maintain native grasses as a replacement for shrubs in the medians.
TxDOT has been testing native grasses in a parking lot off Central Expressway near Interstate 635. The plants have grown healthy with little water.
“I would like to see us move forward with that,” Hunt said. “Keep the area green, and I think we’ll be in a much better situation. I won’t support a penny going toward hardscaping.”
Further north along Central Expressway, Richardson pays extra to the state to maintain its highway landscaping.
“We’re just doing the same type of things that we’re doing with other cities and working with the city of Dallas to try to develop a cooperative effort,” Haigh said.
Drivers have mixed feelings.
“I think it would be worth the money,” Lee Simpson said.
But John Wilden disagreed.
“I think that it is a pointless expense, you know; we could do without it,” he said.
“I think that they could probably find a solution where they wouldn’t have to spend that much money," said driver Melinda Slage, who supports the native plants alternative.
The committee did not reach a decision on the issue Monday, but members soon hope to. Some contracts to maintain current landscaping expire at the end of March.