architecture critic Mark Lamster’s plan for Dallas

architecture critic Mark Lamster’s plan for Dallas


If you want to understand how misguided America’s priorities are in planning a sustainable future, look no further than the $ 548 billion federal infrastructure bill funding breakdown. Of the $ 35 billion Texas owes, about $ 26.9 billion goes to repairing roads and highways and only $ 3.3 billion to public transportation, according to White House calculations. An additional $ 408 million is earmarked for charging stations for electric vehicles. That said, right now we should encourage people to become less dependent on the car, we are spending money to promote driving by almost 10 to 1.

This ratio explains why, according to the city’s strategic mobility plan, just over 6.2% of Dallas residents use “alternative” modes of transport to commute – on foot, bike, and public transit. A long-term goal should be to reverse this paradigm. Certainly no rational culture should consider walking as an alternative mode of transport. After all, the legs are part of our body.

Last but not least, the pandemic has shown us how important walk-in neighborhoods and places are for outdoor recreation. That won’t change even after the pandemic ends, and as new strains develop, it is unclear when that will be the case.

The bill passed by Congress in November promises to fund several critical priorities, including weathering the power grid, securing clean water, protecting against cyberattacks and expanding broadband access. Unfortunately, this list only addresses the essential needs of the region. With that in mind, here are nine ways we should spend our share of Uncle Sam’s luck.

1. Repair the sidewalks and create pedestrian-friendly streets. The Infrastructure Act provides for the repair of roads. Fine. But the first part of the streets that we should fix is ​​the sidewalks. The city is 2,046 miles short of sidewalk, according to the Dallas Sidewalk Master Plan approved by the city council in June. This does not take into account the miles of sidewalks in poor condition or through obstacles (especially Oncor power poles). This disastrous condition helps explain why so many Dallas supporters are reluctant to walk (and therefore rely on cars) and why those who do are so susceptible to injury or death from road traffic accidents.

According to Smart Growth America’s 2019 Pedestrian Danger Index, Dallas is one of the worst cities in America to walk to with a score of 124.2, more than double the national average and an 11% increase over 2016 the most important thing we can do, and it’s also the most expensive at $ 1.984 billion.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and a group of cyclists ride their bikes during the opening of the east and west facing pedestrian and bicycle bridges on Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas in June.(Lola Gomez / photographer)

2. Build protected bike paths. In a ranking by the People for Biking cycling advocacy group, Dallas ranks 97th out of 104 American cities for cycling. No wonder: Dallas has few protected bike lanes and continues to build roads and bridges without them, even if lip service is paid to the idea of ​​becoming more bike-friendly. A good example: In October the city council celebrated the budgeting of $ 2 million for bike lanes. A decade ago, the city’s first bike plan promised 1,000 miles of protected bike lanes. Today the city has about 20 inhabitants.

3. Implement a bus rapid transit system. One of the projects that the legislature is considering for financing is the expansion of the DART light rail system – the so-called D2 inner city route. Conceptually, it is a good idea to increase the number of passengers on the system that is constantly underutilized. But money could better be spent improving bus service with an expanded network of dedicated express lanes. It’s much cheaper, easier to implement, and serves a wider population than rail.

High winds blow before approaching storms Lisa Wall (left) and Loyd Collier at a bus stop on Pearl Street in downtown Dallas.High winds blow before approaching storms Lisa Wall (left) and Loyd Collier at a bus stop on Pearl Street in downtown Dallas.(Eva Edelheit)

4. One bus stop for each stop. In a press conference Monday, DART President Nadine Lee promised that infrastructure funds would go to “projects that improve the driving experience,” including a maintenance backlog and the establishment (or lack of) at DART stops. DART recently proposed a scoring system that weighs various factors (frequency of service, number of passengers, crime rate in the neighborhood) to determine whether a stop should have a shelter, bench, or special lighting. This is a good start, but the richest country in world history should be able to afford shady benches with lights at every stop.

5. Remove I-345. Instead of a large highway construction project, Dallas should move forward with a large highway construction project. I-345, the connection between I-45 and US 75, has exceeded its useful life and is an unnecessary barrier between Downtown and Deep Ellum. This space can be developed into a lively community that brings affordable housing to an area directly adjacent to the core of the city. Earlier this year, a TxDOT feasibility study suggested five options for dealing with the freeway: slimming, depressing, depressing and slimming, leaving and removing. The final option, removal, is the best option and can be done with minimal increase in commute times.

6. Support the entire parking system. Dallas has done an excellent job over the past decade by adding Klyde Warren, Pacific Plaza, and West End parks to its downtown parking system. Two more are on the way, with the remake of Carpenter Park and the future Harwood Park. The larger parking system did not occur either. In May 2020, when the pandemic broke out, the Parks and Recreation Ministry put 25% of its permanent staff on leave. Reinstalling these employees should be a top priority.

7. Increase Dallas tree cover. Earlier this year, the Dallas Park Board, with support from the Texas Trees Foundation, approved its first Urban Forest Master Plan. His goals include increasing the city’s canopy from 32% now to 37% by 2040. Trees are slow growing, but that is too modest a goal. This is the chance to expand it.

Volunteers are working to plant a tree as part of a community growth program that attracted volunteers from regional organizations and businesses to plant trees and clean tombstones.  The Texas Trees Foundation and TXU Energy sponsored the event, which was held at DFW National Cemetery.Volunteers are working to plant a tree as part of a community growth program that attracted volunteers from regional organizations and businesses to plant trees and clean tombstones. The Texas Trees Foundation and TXU Energy sponsored the event, which was held at DFW National Cemetery.(Steve Hamm / special article)

8. Walk forward in Trinity Park. The park between, on and next to the Trinity levees is the most transformative infrastructure project in Dallas. Strengthening these levees and constructing the floodplain areas and river to accommodate the proposed park is a major funding priority.

9. Plan high-speed trains. The Infrastructure Act provides $ 66 billion for rail transport. Much of this will be used to upgrade Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, but Texas should use its portion for the proposed bullet train service between Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Dallas needs a train station integrated in DART, ideally in the city center.

Admittedly, this is a long and expensive wish list. But the truth is, it shouldn’t be necessary. When it comes to taking care of the physical environment, we act like a guy who sits on the couch all day, watches TV and eats junk food and then goes through an uncomfortable and expensive procedure in the hospital. Had we taken better care of ourselves – maybe had we invested in gym membership and fed ourselves better – we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today. Whatever comes out of this infrastructure bill, we’d better take care of it.

Freeway lanes converge near downtown Dallas for the split between I-30 and I-35E.  The Infrastructure Bill, passed by Congress earlier this month, provides $ 26.9 billion for highway and road improvements in Texas.