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Seoul: a river runs through it. A highway used to. (photo courtesy Corbis) Read Peter Simek's story in the May issue for the before shot.

200,000 Drivers a Day on Interstate 345 Is Not a Fixed Number

Recently on The Atlantic Cities site, an article examined the case of Seoul, South Korea, and its success tearing out what the author (a fellow at an urban planning nonprofit) refers to as an “apple-corer” highway. Our own Peter Simek also wrote about Seoul, along with a few other cities that’ve undertaken similar projects, in the May issue of D Magazine.

One portion in particular of the Atlantic piece struck me because it underlines the reasons that proponents of tearing down Interstate 345  aren’t discouraged when opponents swear that the idea is a non-starter because of one simple fact: 200,000 drivers traverse that connecter highway on the east side of downtown. Surely you can’t remove a road that so many people drive. Except, yes, you can. For a few reasons:

First of all, traffic is not some sort of fixed volume. People drive cars, and if a highway isn’t there, they may take a bus or bicycle to work. They may telecommute, or they may sell their suburban home and move to the city. There is no set number of driver, for which you build roads.

Secondly, big apple-corer highways decrease mobility as much as or more than they increase it. The limited access highway usually cuts across a grid-style street layout, sealing off surface avenues like a blowtorch cauterizing veins. Tearing down a big-city highway may actually improve traffic because it gives designers a chance to break open surface streets and restore overall circulation.

Finally, American cities are in the midst of a cultural shift away from the traditional love of cars. As detailed in a recent report by U.S. PIRG, Americans are driving fewer and fewer miles per capita every year. Even more significantly, getting a license is less of a rite of passage for young people. Instead, many are romanticizing the city and its urban ferment. When was the last time you saw a television show that portrayed the suburbs non-sarcastically?

I looked at that U.S. Public Interest Research Group study to see if the conventional belief that we Texans love our cars makes our state an outlier among the national trend. But, in fact, Texas is no different than the rest of the country in having seen vehicle miles per capita decline significantly. After peaking in 2000, it’s moved downward. Between 2005 and 2011, the number fell by 10.1%.

So 10, 20, 30 years from now — as Dallas moves towards denser inner-city development, DART (hopefully) expands public transportation options, and an increasing number of jobs involves telecommuting — it’s easy to imagine that demand for highways dropping further.

  • Ed Woodson

    Cold comfort for affected commuters…you can take public transportation, or ride a bike to work, or move. Maybe your boss will let you telecommute.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    In other words, you didn’t read the article, Ed.

  • AeroRazavi

    We could have our own Seoul here with a tear-down of I-345 and daylighting of Mill Creek. Now that would be something.

  • Ed Woodson

    I read this. Does that not count? Did you read the blog post, Wylie?

    “People drive cars, and if a highway isn’t there, they may take a bus or bicycle to work. They may telecommute, or they may sell their suburban home and move to the city. There is no set number of driver, for which you build roads.”

  • Wylie H Dallas

    I guess I missed the part that talked about tearing out ALL highways and banning cars from using surface streets.

  • WalkableDFW

    Mill Creek is under Hall Street by Baylor, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Geez, Ed. It’s people like you that always overlook the obvious solutions. Forward thinkers like Jason know that when the people have no bread, they should just eat cake.

  • Ed Woodson

    What are you talking about? Do you misconstrue statements all the time or some of the time?

    The entire point of this blog post is that tear-down proponents do not sweat the traffic impacts because they expect them to be short(ish) term, due to people finding different ways to commute or moving (i.e. induced demand), or due to long term trends towards less driving.

    I am countering that even if accurate, the solutions suggested in the article will not be palatable to people who don’t want to wait out the long term trends, or use the solutions proposed the portion of the article Jason cited. Its pretty straight forward if you look at it in good faith.

    I disagree with Jason, and the article he cited, but he appears to be arguing in good faith. I cannot say the same for you.

  • Ed Woodson

    If you are referring to the point about tear-downs helping traffic, note that the barrier referenced in the quote above is a traffic barrier, which some highways pose. I-345 is not a material traffic barrier, as surface roads flow under it. The argument most people make is that I-345 is a development barrier, which is different.

  • Preston Kissman

    You see that’s weird, because when I make a cursory glance on google, I see Virgil, Clover, Crowdus, Hawkins, Floyd, Miranda, Swiss, Florence, Bryan, Ball, Texas, Liberty, Flora, Cantegral, & Eureka Street ALL dead-ending into I-345. I guess those don’t count?

  • AeroRazavi
  • jasonheid

    It’s more like fewer people are wanting to fill up on bread, so let’s restock the store for everybody with a wider variety of offerings: crackers, pretzels, bagels, pasta, a gluten-free loaf, maybe a nice salad. But, don’t worry, there will be some Mrs. Baird’s too.

  • Ed Woodson

    And Ross, Live Oak, Routh, Gaston, Elm, Main, Commerce, Canton, Good Latimer, and Taylor don’t.

    Of the ones you mentioned, Eureka and Virgil and the same street. Flora are also cut in two. So those are two minor streets that are admittedly cut in half by 345.

    You might be able to reconnect Hawkins and Bryan, but you have a major Dart intersection to work through.

    The rest of the streets you mention seem irrelevant. I don’t see Clover anywhere near 345. Floyd, Miranda and Swiss are all cut off my Dart, and the stubs on other other side of the tracks are always going to be pinched off by Pacific anyway. Cantegral dead ends into Bryan, and could perhaps be extended to dead end into San Jacinto or Ross (a two block difference) if you knocked some buildings down).
    Boll appears as long as a driveway. Crowdus is cut off by I-30. Florence has no analog on the other side of 345. Liberty and Texas could at most be extended two blocks to Flora.

    I stand by my statement that I-345 isn’t a major barrier to surface traffic.

  • Ed Woodson

    There will just be a materially longer line for the Mrs. Baird’s.

  • Preston Kissman

    Sigh… so by that definition, a dam isn’t a dam if it still lets a little water out? The point made in the article is that when you constrict traffic from a certain quantity of streets, down to lower quantity of streets, you are in effect, creating a barrier….maybe not a 100% barrier, but a barrier non-the-less.

  • AeroRazavi


    “There will just be a materially longer line for the Mrs. Baird’s.”?

    If that were true, Mrs. Baird’s would not have file for bankruptcy, and would not have had to been bought by Grupo Bimbo, and Mrs. Baird’s would not have had to close several bakeries since then.

    Not that there is anything wrong with what Mrs. Baird’s had to do…

    But if I-345 is Mrs. Baird’s well….

  • Ed Woodson

    That was a small part of the article. The net flow on the 3 or so streets you would be adding isn’t going to move too many needles, IMO. That whole area is a rats nest of tiny streets anyway, partially due to two different grids intersecting at an odd angle. And the East – West streets are just leading into the pocket created by the rest of the loop anyway. I assume your ultimate point is that through traffic between Central and 30/45 would be comparably efficient to what we have with I-345? If so, I just can’t agree with you.

  • Ed Woodson

    ^ [head exploded via analogy bomb]

  • Ed Woodson

    BOOM. [my head exploding from analogy bomb.] On that note, why can’t I leave the office yet, I need a drink.