Fort Worth hits brakes on Forest Park “Road Diet”

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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City officials have postponed the controversial on-again, off-again Forest Park “Road Diet” restriping project while it deals with the bankruptcy of Fort Worth’s lone striping contractor and assesses new opposition from TCU-area residents who live near the south-side arterial.

“It’s on hold right now,” Doug Wiersig, the city’s transportation and public works director, said in an interview.

The city would restripe the four-lane Forest Park between West Rosedale Street and Park Hill Drive, taking it to one traffic lane north and another south, a center turn lane, and bike lanes on the outside.

The Berkeley and Mistletoe Heights neighborhood associations passed resolutions last year asking for the restriping, citing speeding and traffic accidents on the minor arterial, which carries 16,000 cars a day. After pushing the project off from earlier this year to gather more public input, the restriping was set for completion before school started. Then the city’s striping contractor went out of business.

That led to a Plan B: Mayor Betsy Price, asked about the restriping during a community coffee on the Near South Side two weeks ago, said Tarrant County had offered its paint crew for a temporary striping job, the city accepted, and the staff would re-evaluate the results after six months.

Since then, a coalition of residents in neighborhoods around TCU has peppered Price and Councilman Joel Burns, who represents the Near South Side, with letters and emails, offering to pay for an independent traffic engineering study and saying the Road Diet would likely push traffic onto neighborhood streets.

A possible Plan C is now in motion.

Alonzo Linan, the city assistant T/PW director who has the lead on the project, said Fort Worth still plans to “move forward” with the striping project. The city is now working through its interlocal agreement with the city of Dallas to try to get access to Dallas’ striping contractor for a permanent striping job.

Depending on how Dallas’ contract is structured, Fort Worth could ask for the same terms for the Forest Park and other jobs, shortening the time it would take the contractor to get going, Linan said.

The soonest it could take would be two months, Linan said. It could take longer if the project moves into the winter, because the striping —thermoplastic that would be heated and adhered to the pavement - doesn’t stick to a wet surface, Linan said.

The city estimates it will cost “less than $70,000” for a permanent restriping, Linan said.

Tarrant County’s paint truck can’t do a permanent striping, Wiersig said. But a temporary job is still an option if Fort Worth can’t schedule Dallas’ contractor, Wiersig and Linan said.

“We were willing to move forward with a schedule, but then we had more public response and public email that raised some questions,” Linan said. “Instead of pulling the trigger immediately, we decided to hold for a little bit.”

Wiersig said, “We’re just sitting back and assessing the whole situation and figuring out a path forward.”

Controversy over the restriping has built since the Berkeley and Mistletoe associations passed their resolutions.

Price, at her coffee, quoted crash statistics of 41 wrecks in three years and said the restriping is designed to improve safety. But she also acknowledged opposition.

Councilman Jungus Jordan has sought to delay the project, noting that residents in his far South district use Granbury Road and its connection to Forest Park as a fast commuter route into downtown.

The project was on course for Spring completion, but Jordan won a delay by asking that the staff consult neighborhood associations in his district. The restriping should be delayed until the Chisholm Trail Parkway connecting far southwest Fort Worth to downtown opens next year, Jordan said.

“I just think there’s so much going on right now, to add another traffic change would not be my preference,” Jordan said.

Burns did not comment for this story.

‘Dangerous street’

Price Hulsey, a resident of the Park Hill neighborhood near TCU and an opponent of the Road Diet, also wants to delay the restriping until the Chisholm Trail opens.

“We don’t even know what kind of relief that’s going to take off of Forest Park,” Hulsey said.

Residents in the coalition that opposes the Road Diet fear it will push more drivers onto neighborhood streets in search of shortcuts, Hulsey said.

“Nobody wants a dangerous street,” he said.

Susan Pressley, a Mistletoe Heights residents who headed a neighborhood committee that vetted the Road Diet proposal, said “the city has already extensively studied the street.”

“This is a great story about a group of people who came together to improve the neighborhood, to make the street safer for everyone who uses it, including the people who drive through it,” she said.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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