Traffic changes on Abram Street will require careful listening

Posted Wednesday, May. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Be careful when you mess with drivers’ traffic patterns.

That’s a small piece of advice as Arlington planners continue their re-visioning of Abram Street in downtown Arlington.

City leaders have been talking for several years about changes that would make a stretch of Abram friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists while still accommodating the thousands of vehicles that travel the street daily.

The Abram Street Design Workshop in 2010 discussed downtown master plan goals, including “good pedestrian infrastructure” such as sidewalks, shade and calm traffic.

The city has designated $4.9 million from voter-approved 2008 bond funding toward a reconstruction project for the mile of Abram between South Cooper and South Collins streets, with a tentative start date of 2015.

A study presented to City Council members Tuesday looked at the impact of reducing Abram’s five lanes to as few as two, based on traffic projections through 2030.

The conclusion was that each potential change would slow motorists down slightly, but the biggest increase in delays would be for evening westbound traffic if Abram were reduced to two lanes.

Most of the potential lane reductions wouldn’t mean longer waits at traffic lights, but some could be maddening: By 2030, eastbound motorists might have to wait through three or more cycles to turn at the North Cooper Street intersection whether Abram were four, three or two lanes.

But each traffic lane removed would free 10 feet of space for features such as nicer landscaping; easier on-street parking to replace what now is mostly pull-in/back-out; or patio space for the increasing number of restaurants in the area.

Between 24,000 and 27,000 vehicles drive the corridor, and that could increase to 38,000 by 2030, according to the study by consultant Gresham, Smith and Partners.

The city’s Thoroughfare Development Plan recommends reducing the lanes on several roads around the city.

But city officials are looking at Abram to build synergy with the University of Texas at Arlington’s new College Park Center on the east side of campus and the College Park District, which includes student residences, a parking garage and a variety of eateries.

Hearings for public input on Abram are expected this year, though dates haven’t been set yet. Arlington officials have lots of listening and balancing ahead of them.

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