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Dallas Advocates Launch a PAC to Tear Down a Highway

3:06 PM PST on February 11, 2015

Tearing down I-345 would open up 240 acres of prime urban land for development. Image: A New Dallas

The movement for a more livable, less car-clogged Dallas has legs.

A group of reformers advocating for the teardown of Dallas's Interstate 345 has set out to reshape the political landscape -- and they're off to a blazing start. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that the group, A New Dallas, has launched a political action committee to support City Council candidates who back their vision for removing the urban highway and opening up land for development. The PAC has quickly amassed an impressive $225,000.

The May City Council election is shaping up to be the key moment. Thanks to term limits, there are open seats in six of the city's 14 districts. If highway teardown supporters can win four of those six spots, they will have the majority they need on City Council to move ahead with the demolition, opening up 240 acres of the center city to walkable urban development.

"We’ve built a real coalition that wants to see some different ways of thinking about the city," said Patrick Kennedy, an urban planner and co-founder of the PAC who writes the Street Smart column at D Magazine (his pieces appear on Streetsblog Texas). "Our goal was $200,000 for the first year and we blew right through that the first week."

The PAC's leaders also include former state senator John Carona, church organizer George Battle III, and Wick Allison, co-founder of D Magazine. They have hired Matt Tranchin, who led Obama for America's North Texas operation in 2008, to lead the PAC, Kennedy reports.

A New Dallas began as a grassroots effort by Kennedy and development analyst Brandon Hancock, who is also among the PAC's founders. For roughly five years the pair have been making the case for tearing down I-345, an aging elevated highway that runs between downtown and the Deep Ellum neighborhood. According to their analysis, tearing down the highway and replacing it with an at-grade street would open up 240 acres of land. If developed at moderate densities, that could represent $4 billion in investment in much-needed walkable urban fabric in Dallas.

A New Dallas has been taking its plan on the road, giving presentations to community leaders and neighborhood groups and speaking up in the press for the highway removal. Now all of that work seems to be paying off. Their message -- less money poured into asphalt and more into creating a walkable city -- seems to be resonating with newcomers, young professionals, and even some Dallas ex-pats.

But most critically, as their recent fundraising success demonstrates, they have won over some influential members of the local "leadership class," Kennedy said. "There seems to be some people who believe in what we’re talking about."

The group is not releasing the names of major donors yet (they aren't required to yet), but Kennedy said business leaders with no direct financial interest in the outcome have contributed. Early fundraising efforts were so successful, in fact, the group is beginning to think of itself as more of a long-term institution, rather than a PAC aimed at a single issue and a single race.

"345 just happens to be timely," said Kennedy. "It’s more of a mindset change."

Image: A New Dallas
Image: A New Dallas

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