Following an accident that left the well-known owner of Fort Worth’s Reata restaurant seriously injured, city officials and the downtown business community say they have come up with a way to reduce the number of drivers who head the wrong way down one-way streets in the city center.
The city plans to install simple red signs with messages such as “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” on about 10 streets to let errant drivers know if they’re heading into traffic. For unknown reasons, the signs — a familiar sight on one-way streets throughout North Texas and the United States — are almost nonexistent in downtown Fort Worth.
Once you have made a wrong-way turn, there are no visual cues you are going the wrong way.
Andy Taft, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
“I believe that these warnings could prove helpful for confused and/or distracted motorists,” Reata President Mike Micallef said in an email.
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Micallef suffered a crushed vertebrae, a fractured skull and other injuries Oct. 17 after a wrong-way driver struck an SUV, sending the vehicle into a group of pedestrians including Micallef on the sidewalk at Sixth and Throckmorton streets. While others were hit in the 9:30 a.m. crash, only Micallef was hospitalized, Fort Worth police said at the time.
The wrong-way driver was ticketed, police said.
After the accident, which left Micallef in the hospital for days, friends and colleagues at Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit organization, met with city officials to talk about why wrong-way drivers are so common downtown. According to Fort Worth police, there have been 34 accidents in the city involving wrong-way drivers in the past year, including 12 downtown.
“I call it the Micallef initiative,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., adding that he has walked with city officials around downtown, including to the place where Micallef was hit, to observe and identify potential problems.
“If you walk southbound on Throckmorton, you won’t see any indication that you are pointed the wrong way, except for traffic coming at you,” Taft said. “Once you have made a wrong-way turn, there are no visual cues you are going the wrong way.”
First 10 intersections
City officials say they believe they can get warning signs installed in approximately 10 places by spring. They are in the process of identifying which intersections need the signs the most, and are asking Fort Worth police to help provide accident data.
“A target program has been identified where 10 intersections will be updated with new signage,” said Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth transportation and public works director. “The city is in the process of developing a standard template for signs at the various intersection configurations downtown that will included ‘Wrong Way” and ‘Do Not Enter’ signs.”
He said a cost hasn’t been determined.
Other downtown officials said they have been told the signs could probably be installed by the city’s maintenance work crews, with little cost other than their usual salaries and a small amount of money for the signs and other materials.
One key challenge will be making downtown streets safer without cluttering them with metal signs, which if overdone could hurt the architectural ambiance of Sundance Square, a destination popular not only with the roughly 48,000 people who work downtown but thousands of others who visit at night and on weekends.
“I … appreciate that when the wrong way message is placed on the back of existing signage, there would be no new signage/poles necessary and therefore, no additional clutter on the streets and sidewalks of our beautiful downtown,” Micallef said.
Downtown Fort Worth Inc. board members have discussed the need for safety improvements on one-way streets for months. It’s unclear why there aren’t more than a handful of “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs downtown, which has featured one-way streets for decades.
After the initial 10 intersections are improved, the city and Downtown Fort Worth Inc. will discuss what other work may be needed and how much it will cost to reduce wrong-way driving downtown, Wiersig and Taft said separately.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.