FORT WORTH — The city is moving forward with a controversial “road diet” restriping project on Forest Park Boulevard that is scheduled to begin and end in November.The four-lane street will become two-lane between West Rosedale Street and Park Hill Drive, with a center turn lane and bike lanes on the outside, said Doug Wiersig, director of transportation and public works, reported to the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday. The project was put on hold in August after area residents raised concerns that the restriping would push traffic onto neighborhood streets, and also the city’s striping contractor declared bankruptcy.Speeding and wrecks are common problems on that stretch of the well-traveled roadway, and the goal is to increase safety in the primarily residential neighborhood, Wiersig said. Susan Pressley, a Mistletoe Heights Association member, started advocating for the restriping after a car crashed into the sidewalk and nearly hit a child while she was walking with her daughter and other children. “People go way too fast. They don’t treat it like a residential area and it is,” Pressley said. She hopes the so-called road diet will force drivers to go the speed limit and prevent cars from “jockeying for position.”Pressley started a Flickr account a little over a year ago to photograph the crashes she has seen. Wiersig said 41 crashes have occurred on that stretch in three years.Longer commuteCouncilman Jungus Jordan, however, said that if speeding is a problem then the solution is to police the area and issue tickets, not shrink the roadway. Jordan said Forest Park is a major route to get downtown for residents in south Fort Worth. The road carries about 16,000 cars a day. “To me, we are taking a major alternative to commute off of the books to make it a neighborhood street,” Jordan said, adding that he has received multiple emails and phone calls from residents concerned about the change.Mike Howell, who lives one house away from Forest Park, is worried that his commute downtown will increase and that it will be more difficult to get onto Forest Park from side streets. Howell created a Facebook page, Stop Forest Park Road Diet 2013. He also created a petition on change.org to stop the lane reduction. The petition has 135 supporters. Wiersig said the city’s study shows that the road diet won’t noticeably increase congestion. The minor arterial road already functions basically as a two-lane road, he said, since both the north and southbound left lanes act as turning lanes. Changing traffic patternsThe section of the road affected by the change is in Councilman Joel Burns’ district, and he is in favor of the change, although council members did not vote on the project. “I think that after the implementation of these safety improvements, we will all look around and kind of wonder what the big to-do was about,” Burns said. “I think they have shown … that we can flow the same amount traffic in roughly the same amount of time.” Jordan said the city should wait to restripe until the Chisholm Trail Parkway opens next year, which could change traffic patterns and solve much of the problem. “The parkway is going to open in June. Forest Park Boulevard has been this way for 50 years. What is eight more months?” he said. The restriping and traffic signal realignment will cost about $70,000, Wiersig said. The council will receive an evaluation of the completed project about February. If the restriping does not work, Wiersig said, it will cost about $70,000 to change the road back to four lanes.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst