In the Weeds: The City's Again Dealing With Shabby Highway Medians, Including Central

NCentralMedian.jpg
This photo of the Central Expressway median, shown during today's briefing, did not impress council members. At all.
Perhaps you were under the impression that the Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for mowing and maintaining the highway rights-of-way throughout the city. Or maybe you just never thought about it. What's that like, not thinking about highway medians? We wouldn't know.

Either way, you may recall that way back in September 2010, the city agreed to take over the mowing and maintenance of highway rights-of-way from TxDOT, although council members weren't very happy about it at the time: Ann Margolin actually commented that she was "horrified" the city was taking over what used to be the state's responsibility. Now, two city departments, Public Works and Street Services, are asking the city take responsibility for two more gigantic stretches of highway, including Central Expressway between downtown and LBJ.

At this morning's Quality of Life Committee Meeting, the city council members only had two small problems with that plan: They kind of hate how the rights-of-way look, and they don't see why the city should dump more money into taking care of them.

The original plan, as we told you last fall, was that TxDOT would rip out all the non-native plants in the rights-of-way and pay for that removal and the replanting native grasses (cleverly, that's referred to as the "Native Grass Program"). Then the city is responsible for maintenance, at a cost of around $100,000 a year, for the next five years.

TxDOT's supposed to reimburse the city for three "mowing cycles" and 12 "clean-up cycles" per year though. Currently, the city maintains US 67 at Kiest Boulevard, and the median along N. Central Expressway from Woodall Rogers to LBJ Freeway. At this morning Quality of Life Committee meeting, reps from the Public Works and Street Services Department asked the committee members to consider adding two more rights-of-way to that list: the area at US 175, IH-20 and Loop 12 ("Identified and developed as an outcome of the Mayor's Southern Dallas Task Force," per the briefing docs), and and the cross-street bridges and terraces above that same stretch of Central. The estimated cost per year for both would be about $108,500.

Margolin and Angela Hunt both had the same question: Where's that money supposed to come from? Rick Galceran, director of Public Works, and Gilbert Aguilar, director of Street Services, weren't sure. It's not currently in the budget for Street Services, who would be taking over the maintenance.

Sandy Greyson had a slightly different concern. "I gotta tell you," she said, looking at the photograph of Central Expressway the two men had brought along. "That looks like a bunch of weeds to me. It looks like dead grass. It's ... " She paused searching for the right words. "Less than exciting," she finally concluded.

But it is more ecologically friendly, Galceran explained, because it's a native grass that turns brown in the winter and greens up again in the summer, and doesn't require as much watering.

"They took the flowers out, and this is what they left us with?" Carolyn Davis said with dismay.

For Margolin, the whole thing is beginning to look like a waste of money, she said, even though some of that roadway runs right through her district. "The question is, would I rather have landscaping on bridges or more library books?" she said. "I don't know if I think it's even worth it. I don't know if this is the best use of our money. I'm skeptical."

The city's due to vote on the new rights-of-way January 25.

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46 comments
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Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

So Dallas doesn't have the money for maintenance of Central 75 green-ways, but there's money to pay for lighting up Calatrava the fake suspension bridge?

World class, the hotel is gonna be awesome.

Jimrob78
Jimrob78

This town is full of landscaping and nursery companies. Central has tens of thousands of captive eyes while stopped in traffic every rush hour.  How about divide it up into 1000 ft sections that were maintained by different landscaping companies in exchange for small signs advertising their company. 

They would have an incentive to maintain and make their sections look better than other companies to attract business. There could be a scheduled lane closure in just one direction every Sat morning for 2 hours to allow for their maintenance.  

Just saved the city half a million dollars over 5 years.

Larry
Larry

The problem with putting in gravel, which was attempted already, resulted in weeds growing anyway. And man, did that look awful. In retrospect, we should be filled in the freeway median with concrete and instead try to make the planters up on the cross-town bridges look nice.

Ienblack
Ienblack

Maybe Plano should pay for it, Suburb dwellers probably use the freeways more than anyone in Dallas.Seems like they get a free pass from us on enough.

scottindallas
scottindallas

That is a particularly harsh environment.  I'm not sure there are many plants that will endure those conditions.  Another complication is that the beds are raised which makes the soil dry, and the reflected and radiated heat further heats and dries the soil.  I'm not sure anything can be put there that won't need supplemental watering.  There is nothing natural about that setting, and native plants may not be the solution. 

B.S. Filter
B.S. Filter

Scott, what do you think about a basic cover of Asian Jasmine with some sort of scrubby native trees scattered in clumps?  That would, at least, green it up.  Asian Jasmine needs a couple years of watering and maintenance to take hold, but once it starts throwing runners and covers the dirt surface, you just need to keep it buzzcut once a year or so to avoid building up too much thatch.  Maybe some stands of Italian Cypress, say clumps of 7, 9 or so, separated by several hundred yards with some other scruffy native evergreens.?

The thing is, it can't be a flowerpot...you're dead on about the reality of the environment.  Whatever you put out there has to be able to withstand having its roots baked.  Small cedar family shrubs could potentially withstand it.

Nothing, not even native grasses, will survive without water.  Native grasses are a lazy choice.  They look like utter crap everywhere the City uses them.  The plantings at Love Field look horrible.  Dallas has a similar climate to Kyoto, and many of the same plants will work.  You have to go more Japanese if you want something that's green and attractive that will also be at least in xeriscape range.  Otherwise, you are stuck in a very weedy range of plants.

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

Similar to Kyoto? that is laughable. Maybe in the lowest temperature, but the amount of moisture in Japan is far more than what we get here, try 62.2 in vs 25.  Native grasses or plain old prickly pear would be fine. Deal with it. Asian jasmine will die. Look around at the areas that are non-irrigated after this drought and see what it looks like. I wouldn't touch the maintenance of those areas or even think about trying to plant it out without a nice big fat contract with replacements written in as over and above. Areas like that are a death trap. 

Guest
Guest

Why didn't anyone think of this earlier? Kudzu! Plant a bit all around Central and soon the whole city will be a lush, green, "world class" paradise!

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

It was my impression from this time last year (after that grueling painful budget shortfall) that the city spent $300,000.00 of tax payer monies to re plant the median down Central Expressway just in time for the drought!    So they did not do it?  Or do they want another block of cash to do it again?    And I will go ahead and ask the magic question “if we are in a record drought, gearing up for major water restrictions where is the water for this project going to come from let alone the Hanging Gardens of Woodall Rogers Park just outside the arts district?   Are we suppose to sacrifice our yards and trees for THIS?    Some how I fail to see the city connecting the dots AGAIN.

T. Erickson
T. Erickson

We know trees don't vote. But what about native grasses and weeds?

deadhookerzforCraigJames'12
deadhookerzforCraigJames'12

Brown in the winter, brown in the summer. Oh, wait! Do I suspect a hint of racism from the council???

Facebook User
Facebook User

Fill in the area between with gravel and call it a day. When we have enough money to pay for our schools we can focus on floral arrangements between our highways.

jfpo
jfpo

They do this in place like Las Vegas and Arizona. It's a clean look that requires no water.

Dougsterfresh
Dougsterfresh

I think this may be what Ann Margolin was alluding to.........do we really need to be spending a ton of money on I-75 Median plants (mainly seen by commuters anyway) when other areas in the budget are sorely lacking. Real amenities. I agree, mesh over it till the more important things are funded, replant at that point.

Neil Sperry's aching back
Neil Sperry's aching back

So it cost $300K to dig up the truly natural grasses (okay, mostly weeds, but still) and replaced them with different "natural grasses"?

It's a concrete canyon that runs about 7 miles, shouldn't we just look at the road?  I'm sure we'd all be fine suspending our aesthetic sensabilities for 15 minutes. 

Shelton_greg
Shelton_greg

More people go up and down that road for more hours of the day then most people spend in parks for an entire year...  Why not have it look nice? 

Besides that this is the front door to our city... Do you mow your front yard?  Do you paint your house? 

it is not about being a world class city it is about taking pride in your home. 

Neil Sperry's aching back
Neil Sperry's aching back

Yes, I do both of those things, but I'm not broke.

Not sure that it's the front door though, unless you're coming from the northern burbs, in which case you're already declared you don't like the city well enough to live here anyway.

Visitors (who might care) come from DFW and Love and their is no xeriscaping on Stemmons or 30, or 114, or 183, or...

It just more wasted money in a city that doesn't have any.

Willie
Willie

And this coming from someone who went to a school that graduates people who design the goofy roads in Texas?

Storm_71
Storm_71

Well yes normally but if Dallas wants to be a "World Class" city they need to put world class plants in there.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I remember how nice and green Central Expressway looked when it first re-opened--- now, it kind of screams out:  "The City of Dallas - Land of Dysfunction."

Maybe the answer isn't water-intensive plants, but you have to admit-- Central Expressway has devolved into one of the ugliest stretches of urban freeway in the Southwestern U.S.

It's kind of like the neighbor's house with trash in the front yard and a ratty sofa on the porch-- you just assume that nothing good is goin' on inside the house, either.

Willie
Willie

I wouldn't complain about it.  Imagine what it would look like if the freeway was at ground level, which is how TxDOT originally designed it.  And you should check out how bad the roads really look in cities up north. 

aggie91
aggie91

I do agree that the City and the State have not made time or money to keep Central up the way it should be... it is the front door of our city.  but I would not call it ugly.... i have seen a lot worse in and around texas then NCX.

Neil Sperry's aching back
Neil Sperry's aching back

Um, have you driven on I-30 from downtown to Garland? Makes 75 look like the Pacific Coast Highway.

Anon
Anon

You mean from Downtown to Mesquite? I-30 doesn't get to Garland until it goes through Mesquite.

lorlee
lorlee

I don't know where you are looking but I-30 East has been considerably cleaned up and enhanced. 

I am not saying that is how I want my tax dollars spent, but it does almost look like the golf course they had promised in time for the Superbowl. 

Also, Mesquite takes over about Big Town on out to Garland.

Lorlee
Lorlee

irony is apparently wasted on you. 

And Mesquite has nothing to do with the maintenance of roads in Dallas.  At Big Town, they take over the grooming of the right of way.

Neil Sperry's aching back
Neil Sperry's aching back

Right, Mesquite (where Beirut meets the Deliverance).

Yes, I have regrettably driven it on occasion and might suggest you find a new golf course.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I couldn't disagree more. I am all for native grasses. That was my first impression as I looked at the photo. It looks great to me. Grasses dormant in Winter. it's environmentally friendly and if you look at it with some perspective, quite subtly beautiful. So in this severe drought we should be replanting things that require water? No.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Wow, this so true.  The subtle beauty of said grasses is both practical, and a necessicty in a drought.  I employ native grasses in my yard, it has been both easy and a great view at sunset.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

75 looks great up here around Parker Road!  Dallas doesn't care, unless it feeds the "good ole boy network", or lines someone's pockets.  Dallas is the city that GIVES to it's elected officials. Nuff said.  

Rangers100
Rangers100

Has anything punctuated with "nuff said" ever been true?

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Uh oh, we have grammar Nazi!  That's the valid point you bring?  you must be a party animal sir.  I recommend you maybe get some sun....and leave that trash heap called Bedford. 

Jkinseriii
Jkinseriii

Never.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

How much though did that take?  Nuff said bitches!

POW

ps-Anyone else?  I'm used to comments that make sense; fighting with you all is like fightin' the lame and infirm-sir(s)

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Is that near Lake Texoma?

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Love Texoma!  I'm sending you a map, so you know how to leave Garland-sir!

Willie
Willie

Might as well be.  Not much difference between Plano and Oklahoma.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Love Plano!

Love Oklahoma...... just this weekend, I went hiking in the Kiamichi Mountains.

Me-hikingYou-in smelly city, listening to wife....POW

Dal1
Dal1

You have got to be kidding. That concrete eyesore? It will look terrible in a few years. That interchange creates a massive barrier between both sides of the expressway.

Then again, as long as you have dozens of fast food restaurants on BOTH side of the expressway, y'all are happy up there.

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