Bloated traffic: Motorists not happy with Forest Park ‘road diet’

11/18/2013 6:45 PM

11/19/2013 7:54 AM

Workers have restriped Forest Park Boulevard as part of a “road diet” plan designed to ease congestion and stress among motorists.

But the early reviews of the new lane configuration aren’t good.

“Why fix something that wasn’t broken?” said Amber Altemose, a lawyer who lives in Berkeley Place and drives Forest Park Boulevard each morning.

Altemose was among nearly 200 people who signed an online petition asking the city to stop the road diet plan. But the city went ahead with the restriping, which was partially completed Nov. 11, though city crews have since made repeated trips to the area to make minor adjustments.

“At 7:50 a.m. traffic was backed up from Park Place all the way to Park Hill,” Altemose wrote last week on the petition. “I went from spending three to four minutes dropping off my child at Lily B. [Clayton Elementary School] to spending 14 minutes.”

Passing lane

Last week, motorists awoke to find that the road, which previously had been two lanes in each direction, had been restriped for one lane in each direction plus a left-turn-only middle lane. Bicycle lanes were also striped on each side.

The goal of the work between West Rosedale Street and Park Hill Drive was to make the road safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and to eliminate dangerous backups caused by vehicles trying to turn left in a main lane, said Doug Wiersig, director of transportation and public works.

The long-discussed project was initially scheduled for completion during the summer but was postponed in August after the city’s striping contractor declared bankruptcy.

Speeding on the road, which carries about 16,000 vehicles per day, has long been a concern in the mainly residential area, Wiersig said.

But the road diet, which cost an estimated $70,000, has apparently been anything but a panacea.

For example, in a phone interview Monday, Altemose said that the other day she saw a vehicle use the left-turn lane to get around a slower vehicle.

“They’re using that lane to pass,” she said.

Continued monitoring

City Council members such as Jungus Jordan have suggested that the area would benefit more from a stronger police presence than from restriping, although Councilman Joel Burns, whose district includes the street, has been supportive of the plan.

City workers are continuing to monitor morning and afternoon rush traffic in the area, to make adjustments to traffic signals and other elements as needed, said Alonzo Linan, assistant director of transportation and public works.

“If the comments are coming from experience on the first day of the conversion (Monday the 11th or Tuesday the 12th), congestion was exceptionally worse as marking trucks were blocking lanes on Monday and the wrong timing plan was in place on Tuesday,” Linan said in an email. “Corrections were made on Wednesday and adjustments have been made for each peak period since.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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