Some Fort Worth neighbors say ‘no’ to road diet

  A. Lee Graham Reporter   Some neighbors near Forest Park Boulevard are mounting a campaign against plans to restripe the thoroughfare from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane configuration.   What city officials call a “road diet” would affect Forest Park between Park Hill Drive and Rosedale Street.   “We are working to get something in place by September,” said Alonzo Linan, the city’s assistant transportation and public works director.   A contractor originally set to handle the project went bankrupt recently, forcing the city to find a different firm.   “That really threw a cog into our plans,” said Linan, explaining that the city likely will use a firm already working on other city projects.   But not so fast, says at least one homeowner mobilizing opposition to the “road diet,” a term denoting a reduction in traffic lanes.   “It’s a bad idea,” said Bill Hall, whose Medford Court West home is just north of Park Hill Drive, which crosses Forest Park to the east. Hall worries that the new Forest Park configuration would 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 plan to share their objections with the city.   Though nothing has taken shape, Hall envisions a possible public awareness campaign employing print ads, as well as yard signs along affected roadways reminding motorists to slow down.   He also 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 oppose and support the plan.   The road diet project calls for restriping the current four-lane, undivided roadway with a three-lane configuration: one lane in each direction, north and south, a center turn lane and room for bicycle lanes.   Safety concerns spurred the idea after 41 traffic accidents were reported between 2009 and 2011, said Doug Wiersig, the city’s transportation and public works director. Most occurred at intersections such as Park Place Avenue, but some happened between blocks.   Some residents fear that the “road diet” project area could cause a ripple effect and slow traffic along the entire length of Forest Park from Cleburne Road north into downtown. “Forest Park is a main artery for thousands of people. Travel time to downtown has already doubled or tripled due to the I-30 ramp closure, and will take even longer with this proposal,” one resident wrote on a petition to protest the restriping plan. Circulated by a Facebook group known as Stop Forest Park Road Diet 2013, the 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.   Mayor Betsy Price has acknowledged differing views on the plan, but emphasized that restriping can be undone. “If it doesn’t work, in three months, it can be re-evaluated,” Price said in May. “It can be restriped.” 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 city budget.