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Highways Are Bleeding Dallas. So Why Are You Surprised We Want to Kill One?

Maybe you love your car. Maybe you love driving. Maybe you love the highways that allow you to have your big home in a lovely neighborhood miles and miles (and maybe even miles more) from downtown. Maybe you even love your commute, getting to spend a couple hours each day listening to the latest Radiolab episode or working your way through the Game of Thrones audiobooks or whatever. Bully for you. Those of us who live in and care about the city’s central core are generally happy to let you be. We don’t tread on you, not normally.

Except now. You’re killing us. You and your neighbors in the Stonehollow Creek Meadow on Townlake Castle Village II subdivision. I’ll let Patrick Kennedy explain:

In the 1950’s before the highways were built through the heart of Dallas, tearing up community fabric and displacing their social and economic bonds into disaggregated detritus strewn about a now 16-county metropolitan area, the city of Dallas comprised 60% of the region’s population.  Do you know what that percentage is now?  19% and falling.

Also in the 1950’s, Detroit composed 56% of its metro population.  Today, that number sits at 17%.  That may very well be the bottoming out because their region has now finally flatlined despite decades of continued growth while the city of Detroit is showing signs of green shoots as a city of affordable opportunity.

If we hit 17% perhaps it’s time to sound the alarms.  Why?  Because the core city inevitably gets larded up with all of the infrastructure, amenity and cost burden of the larger city while we’re actively subsidizing life outside the core, pushing tax base to live outside and commute in.

Between the 2000 and 2010 census, the metro gained 1.2 million people.  The city of Dallas gained 9,000.  Less than 1% of the growth.  That’s the least the city of Dallas has grown during a 10-year span since we grew from 3,000 to 10,000 in 1880.  1880.  Now, I’m not the type to say “growth is king!” Or even always a good thing.  But it’s a bad thing when the core city gets all cost of growth and no benefit.

Let’s roll those numbers forward because extending trend lines to infinity is fun.  If the region gains another 1.2 million by 2020 and the city grows from 1.2 million to 1.3 million, that puts us at 17.3%.  If it wasn’t for uptown adding about 20,000 people (due to being the most walkable place in the ENTIRE metropolitan area), I suspect Dallas would still be in complete free-fall.

Not that we’re holding you accountable. We’re holding ourselves accountable. Really. We allowed the state highway planners to build a noose around the neck of the central business district, and it wouldn’t be fair just to point a finger in your direction.

But we’re trying to clean up our act. We know we need to make some changes, maybe some pretty radical changes, and some of those might cause you some pain. We’ll understand if you want to pour one out for I-345. Take your time. It’s hard to say goodbye.

We’re sorry, but something’s got to be done. We all should really be on the same team here. We can’t imagine you want to live in Detroit any more than we do.