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The Southern Gateway Project: Officials discuss changes, urge citizens to get involved

MIKE McGEE | 7/4/2016, 12:24 p.m.
The Southern Gateway Project second community meeting for District 4 was hosted by Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold at the Beckley-Saner ...
During a community meeting, Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold and Project Manager John Nguyen discuss planned changes to the Southern Gateway Project, June 16. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

The Southern Gateway Project second community meeting for District 4 was hosted by Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold at the Beckley-Saner Recreation Center June 16. During the meeting options and expanded changes in the I-35E improvement plan were presented by the Texas Department of Transportation.

A study called CityMAP has explored the options of cost and designs of redoing roadways around the city, including those that are part of the Southern Gateway initiative. The concept of the plan involves long-term transportation and operational changes with the goal to improve safety, traffic congestion and address roadway deficiencies, according to the project’s website.

The specific focus of the meeting was on Segment 1 of the proposal, a section of I-35E passing between Zang Boulevard and Beckley Avenue, past the Dallas Zoo.

One of the first issues Arnold addressed was a part of the plan that suggests that a deck park, similar to Klyde Warren Park Downtown over Woodall Rodgers Freeway, may be added to I-35.

While some in the capacity-crowd at the recreation center supported the concept, most did not. Shaun Montgomery, a resident of the district, complained that such an addition would be a waste of resources.

“[In] our area, we’re not interested in a deck park. There’s too much money that the city needs to be putting in the Southern Sector. There’s too much work that needs to be done,” she asserted.

To strengthen her point, Montgomery drew upon the controversial Trinity River Corridor Project, which consists in part of townhouses, outdoor dining, the Texas Horse Park – and may eventually include a marina and a toll road.

“How do you explain [the] entertainment purposes of the Trinity River and then a deck park less than five miles away? Who’s going to go where?”

Arnold admitted that she, too, felt apprehension about the structure that would connect District 4 and District 1.

“I will not support that deck park as it is proposed.” She decried the concept outlined by CityMAP for potentially moving the entrance to the zoo which would negatively affect businesses in the area. She added that money wasn’t available for the park in the capacity it was for Klyde Warren Park in the form of public-private donations and what she described as a “$17 million infusion of cash” from a federal stimulus plan.

“The whole plan is totally different and so my concern is that we don’t have stable plan.”

Project manager John Nguyen attempted to assuage the concerns of those in attendance by pointing out that the deck park was not a recommendation nor an approved addition to the Southern Gateway. He further explained that when CityMAP did their economic impact study, the park was more of a hypothetical scenario in the potential planning of the construction rather than a confirmed amenity.

“The study looks at a possibility, if the deck park happens in that specific location, what will it do? That’s what the study does. It doesn’t recommend a deck park here, or a deck park there, or anywhere,” he said, stating that it provided an estimate of the type of economic impact such a change would make in a specific area.