Friday, August 10, 2012

S.M. Wright Freeway - Here We Go Again!

S.M. Wright Freeway cuts  right through the heart of  south Dallas. Texas Department
of  Transportation proposes making this a graded six-lane thoroughfare

It's an old, old story. It's what happens when citizens don't have the clout (which means the money,  or the political representation that prioritizes their voice) or the organizational stamina to continue to work an issue until they get the resolution they want; or until an acceptable compromise is reached.

This time I'm talking about Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) insistence on redeveloping S.M. Wright Freeway in south Dallas as a six lane thoroughfare, as opposed to the four lane boulevard south Dallas citizens have said they want.

The TxDOT proposal would devastate the neighborhood, in much the same way Hwy 175 did when it split south Dallas in two, nearly 50 years ago. When I was a pastor in the area and even afterwards in conversations with older, long time residents of the area yielded stories of how C.F. Hawn Freeway severed the cohesion between what became known as the Ideal, Lincoln Manor and Bon-Ton communities. Now a proposed six lane high, explicitly spoken of as intentionally purposed to bring heavy volumes of traffic through the neighborhood without regard to redevelopment efforts within close proximity to SMW and other phases of development that will nearly abut the freeway.

I and other allies working with leaders in the area have seen a boulevard redesign of four lanes a last best opportunity for the type of comprehensive redevelopment needed for south Dallas; an opportunity to put an end to the one off, project based, non-strategic, inchoate redevelopment that costs comparatively little and eventually pits struggling neighborhood non-profits against one another.

A recent Dallas Morning News online article says...

"Neighborhood groups have long argued that the reconfigured SM Wright Boulevard should be just four lanes, instead of the proposed six, as they say the right of way that would be saved as a result could be used to foster neighborhood businesses and bring street life back to the neighborhood many feel has been falling deeper into decay ever since the original Freeway was built to run right through the old neighborhood in the 1960s..."

I'm of the opinion that it's never too late. But there has to be a willingness of government bodies to listen to the citizens who's lives they're impacting. During earlier efforts to challenge TxDOT's proposal, one city official who supported their design talked about the impracticality and the expense of correcting past injustices and mistakes. That is a salient point to make. It's always less 'practical' and more expensive to correct injustice than it is to do what is just in the first place. But if we leave the rationale right there, we don't make wrong decisions going forward less convenient or less expensive. What we lose ultimately ends up being more valuable than what we gain. And we don't usually recognize that until those who have made the 'practical', 'cost effective' decisions have moved on to something else...

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