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The Dream of a Tunnel Under Dallas

DigdugOn April 7, I posted an item about an op-ed written by Michael Morris of NCTCOG and Bill Hale of TxDOT. I questioned why the two men would predicate a teardown of I-345 on the construction of the Trinity Parkway when, in a 2007 memo, Morris didn’t include I-345 on a list of projects that depended on construction of the Parkway. A NCTCOG spokeswoman named Amanda Wilson emailed me Friday to clarify. The link between I-345 and the Parkway wasn’t made in 2007 because I-345 is a maintenance project, not a project to increase capacity. Morris and Hale have now linked I-345 with the Parkway because only now are people talking about reconfiguring I-345. Duly noted.

The spokeswoman also took issue with something I wrote in that post about the “inner loop” that Morris and Hale mentioned in their op-ed. They wrote:

“Consideration should also be given to a new ‘inner loop’ study that would address how to move traffic from I-35E to the Hospital District to Love Field, and on to the Dallas North Tollway, Central and I-30.”

I said that unless I was mistaken, Morris was talking about widening Mockingbird so that it could handle more traffic. The NCTCOG spokeswoman said that wasn’t true, and she asked me to go back and review a conversation I’d had with Morris when we met to talk roads a few weeks back. Wilson, the spokeswoman, wrote, “When you came out to our offices to talk to Michael, I know this ‘inner loop’ concept was part of that discussion and I would ask you to maybe go back and review that conversation, which was more about tunnel (not surface) improvements that could move traffic from IH 35E through the hospital district over to DNT, Love Field, and possibly even connecting over to IH 30.”

She is right. Morris did mention a tunnel to me. But that notion is so preposterous that when I saw mention of an “inner loop” in the op-ed, I speculated in my earlier post that any such loop would have to run along Mockingbird, for at least part of its length. Perhaps I should not have speculated. Perhaps an “inner loop” tunnel actually could be built built from I-35 to I-30.

They are trying to build such an inner-city tunnel in Seattle right now. They’re having a little trouble. But the 1.7 mile tunnel is supposed to cost about $3.1 billion. To my eye, an “inner loop” tunnel in Dallas from I-35 to Love Field to the Tollway would run 2.5 miles. Continue to Central, and you’ve got a total of 4.5 miles. All the way around to I-30 would put you in the ballpark of 7 miles. Depends on the route, course. Using Seattle as our guide, though, that would put the cost of Morris’ tunnel in Dallas at $12.7 billion.

As I say, perhaps this tunnel is possible. But there must have been a reason why Morris and Hale didn’t mention it in their op-ed.