ARLINGTON — City Council members said Tuesday that they don’t even want to consider reducing Abram Street through downtown to anything less than four lanes.The council had been asked to vote on a $278,000 contract that included having consultants gather public feedback on the possibility of narrowing Abram Street between Cooper and Collins streets to as few as three lanes to free up space for landscaping and pedestrian amenities.Abram Street, which is five lanes between those streets, is expected to be rebuilt downtown as early as 2015, officials said.But on Tuesday, the council decided to postpone a vote on the contract for further discussion. The vote was delayed until October.“It’s not just an incidental road. I’ve been worried for a while — are we going to add to that congestion?” said Mayor Robert Cluck, adding that Abram Street is already “wall-to-wall cars” during peak morning and afternoon travel times.“I know beautification is important. But I suspect to the average citizen the most important thing is to get out of town or to get into town.”Last fall, the council approved $55,000 for the first part of a study on how downtown traffic could be affected if Abram Street between Cooper and Collins streets were reduced to four, three or even two lanes. Each lane reduction would free up 10 feet of space to add features such as wider sidewalks, more landscaping and streetlights, and even parking on the north and south sides of the street, officials have said.A pedestrian-friendly downtown is one of the goals adopted in 2004 as part of a vision for the heart of the city. After some discussion Tuesday, the council informally selected two options they would like the public to consider — reducing Abram to four lanes between Cooper and Collins streets or reducing a shorter section between West Street and the Tarrant County Subcourthouse. Between 24,000 and 27,000 vehicles use the street each day, but consultants expect an increase of 8,000 to 11,000 vehicles by 2030. Reducing Abram to four lanes is expected to add about one minute to motorists’ travel time between Cooper and Collins streets, according to consultants.“We are trying to get it changed from what it is today to something different but have the least impact on traffic flow,” Cluck said. Council member Robert Rivera said he wants to rebuild Abram downtown.“In the several months we have been taking a look at this … I’m convinced the existing five-lane section is the way I want to go,” Rivera said. “Being able to move the traffic, the significant amount that flows through daily, that is what I would like to see us move on with.”Jill House, assistant director of public works, told council members that leaving Abram as five lanes would not allow for the addition of pedestrian amenities and that reducing it to two lanes would significantly affect motorists’ travel time and create public safety concerns.“If there were a wreck, getting emergency vehicles through the corridor would be a challenge,” House said.Arlington voters approved nearly $22 million in the 2008 bond election to rebuild Abram from Cooper to the Grand Prairie city limits. The city is using the bond funds to pay for the studies.The contract for the second phase of the study will include $97,500 for a topographic survey, which is required for the Abram rebuilding no matter how many lanes are built, House said. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock