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Government Forest Park ‘road diet’ to proceed

Forest Park ‘road diet’ to proceed

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

 

A. Lee Graham lgraham@bizpress.net

Mounting opposition to Forest Park Boulevard restriping has prompted a response from the councilman representing the district, though his words likely will not please those critics.

“There’s been a great deal of new discussion regarding Forest Park [Boulevard] and I am writing to let you know about the current and future status of this project,” said District 9 Councilman Joel Burns in an email sent Aug. 29 to homeowners in Mistletoe Heights, Berkeley Place and other neighborhoods lining the stretch of Forest Park between Park Hill Drive and Rosedale Street.

What city officials call a “road diet” is set to restripe that portion of Forest Park from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane configuration. The term “road diet” denotes a reduction in lanes.

The project has been delayed several times as the city grappled with contractor issues. The latest snag occurred after the contractor originally set to handle the work recently went bankrupt, forcing the city to find another firm – possibly one used by the city of Dallas.

When the Forest Park work will be undertaken has not been determined, according to Alonzo Linan, Fort Worth’s assistant transportation and public works director.

“It’s still moving forward,” Linan said. “We’re now trying to piggyback on the interlocal cooperative agreement between us and the city of Dallas and use the contractor that they use.”

The project involves restriping, as well as signalization and intersection improvements planned for where Forest Park intersects with Rosedale, Mistletoe Boulevard, Park Place Avenue and Park Hill. In his email, Burns said that component of the project has gotten short shrift compared to the hotly discussed restriping.

“To maximize safety and reduce disruption and costs, I have asked TPW [the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department] staff to implement these improvements concurrently,” Burns wrote.

Although cost estimates total $70,000 – exceeding the $50,000 minimum at which capital expenditures require City Council approval – the project requires no council approval because its expenses were authorized in the current city budget.

That frustrates Bill Hall, whose Medford Court West home is just north of Park Hill Drive, which crosses Forest Park to the east.

Recent weeks have seen Hall circulate several neighborhood emails urging Park Hill residents to send emails opposing the project to city leaders.

“We want this issue brought before the City Council,” Hall told the Business Press. “If the council approves it, I guess that’s OK. We just want a hearing on the issue.”

Hall wants the project delayed until Chisholm Trail Parkway and West Seventh Street Bridge construction reach completion to get a better idea of potential traffic impacts. 

Hall worries that the new Forest Park configuration will cause a domino effect, sending more traffic along park Hill between University Drive and Forest Park. So he and other residents of Park Hill, University Place and at least one more neighborhood in the TCU area have shared their objections with the city.

Also seeking to stop the road diet is a Facebook page launched earlier this year. Dubbed “Stop Forest Park Road Diet 2013,” the online petition opposes the plan. It describes the effort as reacting to safety concerns among some Berkeley Place and Mistletoe Heights homeowners along the roadway instead of concerns of many more residents not living in the area.

Hall agrees.

“We’re talking about a road that goes from [south of Berry Street] all the way to downtown. This is not a neighborhood concern, it’s a regional roadway,” Hall said.

As a member of the Park Hill Neighborhood Association, Hall wants an independent traffic survey completed by a firm with no ties to the city, as well as a separate survey to confirm how many nearby residents support and oppose the plan.

In May, city officials reported receiving about 300 emails, letter and phone calls regarding the project. Residents sending those comments said they favored the project by a two-to-one ratio, according to Mayor Betsy Price.

Since then, Hall and others believe many more residents previously unaware of the plan have raised objections after learning about the effort.

“I’d like to see what the ratio of those for and against is now,” Hall said.

Many support the plan, including Susan Pressley. The West Magnolia Avenue resident has voiced support, citing numerous traffic accidents along Forest Park and treacherous conditions when walking her daughter to Lily B. Clayton Elemetary School just east of Forest Park along Park Place Avenue.

For years, Pressley and her neighbors have watched vehicles exceed the road’s 35 mph speed limit and sometimes lose control and crash into fences in the Mistletoe Heights neighborhood. The “S” curve between Edwin Street and Harrison Avenue encourages motorists to exceed the speed limit, some have said.

Initially, Burns said he was hesitant to support the restriping concept, fearing it would trigger higher traffic volumes on Eighth Avenue and University Drive, which parallel Forest Park to the east and west, respectively.

“But I’ve had a chance to listen to the facts the review TPW [Traffic and Public Works] Department’s extensive traffic studies and computer traffic modeling,” Burns said.

With that information, as well as responses from more than 400 residents expressing their views online or at several public meetings dating back to 2011, Burns said he now supports the project.

“These planned changes improve safety,” Burns said. “And I believe all Fort Worth travelers – whether behind a wheel of a car, walking along a sidewalk to school, or on the seat of a bike – deserve to be as safe as possible.”  

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