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Forest Park ‘road diet’ could happen in NovemberSeptember 24, 2013
A. Lee Graham
No additional Fort Worth roadways are planned to undergo "road diet" restriping as Forest Park Boulevard between Rosedale Street and Park Hill Drive becomes a three-lane thoroughfare.
That was the message at the pre-council portion of the Sept. 24 City Council meeting, where council members learned that the long-awaited makeover could occur in November. Exactly when the work will be conducted depends on when the city hires a project contractor, which officials hope will happen in October.
“This has been a lengthy public process,” said District 9 Councilman Joel Burns, besieged by emails supporting and opposing the project since discussions began two years ago.
Also planned are signalization and intersection improvements for where Forest Park intersects with Rosedale, Mistletoe Boulevard, Park Place Avenue and Park Hill. 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.
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.
“How do we arrive at a balance between those two things: safety and mobility,” said Doug Wiersig, director of the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department.
Some residents living in nearby Mistletoe Heights and Berkeley Place neighborhoods had voiced concern that speeding motorists created safety hazards. Traffic studies confirmed 41 crashes along the stretch between 2009 and 2011.
But others disagreed.
Some residents worry that the new Forest Park configuration will cause a domino effect, sending more traffic along Park Hill between University Drive and Forest Park. Bill Hall, a Medford Court homeowner in the nearby Park Hill neighborhood, 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.
But Wiersig said those concerns are unwarranted.
“Its impact on Forest Park … is pretty minimal because it’s two or three miles over there, and not that many people will divert from their north and south travel pattern to Chisholm Trail Parkway,” Wiersig said.
Those wondering if an already bustling Forest Park handling 16,000 vehicles a day faces more congestion when four lanes are reduced to three have nothing to fear, Burns said.
“It is adequate to support that,” said Burns, who expressed initial hesitation at supporting 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 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.
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.
Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman asked if Eighth Avenue, University Drive or other roadways face similar makeovers.
“At this stage, no one’s approached us to reevaluate any of those,” Wiersig said.