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US75 North, Central Expressway

Last updated June 2, 2001

More photos: Photos part 2 (12-May-2001), Photos part 3 (courtesy of TxDOT, 1.2 MB page size)

Central Expressway location mapThe reconstruction of US75 north was completed in November 1999. Total reconstruction cost was around $600 million. The new facility has a mininum of 8 continuous general-purpose lanes and is in a trench for six miles. Its architecturally distinctive design distinguishes it as one of the nation's most attractive urban freeways, but the real accomplishment was actually getting it built. Building a freeway in a trench on an extremely narrow right-of-way while keeping the existing freeway open was a challenging construction task. In some sections, the feeder roads are cantilevered over the main lanes because of the narrow right-of-way.

The Old Central Expressway

Before reconstruction, US75 north of downtown Dallas was one of the most poorly designed freeways in the nation. Opened around 1950, it was Dallas' first freeway and had a lot in common with Los Angeles' first freeway, the Pasedena freeway. The freeway was narrow - six lanes and four lanes. On-ramps were nearly non-existant. Geometrics were poor. Driving on the old Central Expressway was like being on a roller coaster going up and down, up and down as the freeway passed underneath closely-spaced intersections. (Unlike the Pasedena freeway, Central Expressway was generally straight.)

Worst of all, the right-of-way was extremely narrow, around 180-200 feet for most of the corridor. The narrow right-of-way and outdated freeway design made it nearly impossible to expand it.

In the early 1980's, TxDOT floated plans to build an elevated structure above the existing freeway. After considerable study and debate, elevated structures were eliminated and it was decided to put the full length of freeway in a trench. Construction started in 1992, and was finally completed in November 1999. A new light rail long along the freeway had opened earlier in 1998.

Was it worth the wait? Well, it's definitely a nice freeway. But considering how long and how severely Dallas suffered with the old freeway, I still say it took way to long to solve the problem. Curiously, it appears that the Pasedena freeway in Los Angeles will be left in its original state into perpetuity, partially for historic purposes. I can assure you that no one in Dallas wanted to preserve Central Expressway!

Looking south near Walnut Hill in 1990, a few years before reconstruction began. Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle, used by permission.

All photos below taken September 2000

See new photos taken 12-May-2001, at the freeway level. Additional photos.

US75 Central
Freeway-level view, looking south towards downtown Dallas.

US75 Central
Looking north from Yale-SMU Blvd.

US75 Central
Looking south from Yale-SMU Blvd.

US75 Central
Looking south from Mockingbird Lane.

The Air Columns
One of the most distinctive features of the freeway is the pervasive presence of "air columns" - artistic columns that rise to support nothing but air. Every entrance and exit ramp is framed by air columns.

US75 Central
A typical entrance ramp.

US75 Central
Viewing the air beams from across the freeway.

Architectural Treatments
Each intersecting street at ground level generally has a distinctive architectural treatment.

US75 Central
Mockingbird Lane over central expressway.

US75 Central
Lovers Lane over central expressway.

US75 Central
Plaque commemorating the completion of segment S2 in September 1998. The final section (S1) was completed in November 1999.

Photos part 2
Photos part 3 (1.2 MB page size)

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