Politics & Government

Fort Worth put the brakes on 11 roundabouts, but not this one. Here’s why

For nearly a decade, residents in far east Fort Worth have told city officials they don’t want a roundabout at an increasingly busy intersection.

With construction underway, Mary Kelleher, a former Tarrant Regional Water District board member who lives nearby, said she wanted the city to prove the roundabout at Randol Mill and Precinct Line roads is the best way to control traffic along the corridor. City employees say traffic studies, including one done in May, show a roundabout is safer and more efficient than a traffic light.

“We’ve pretty consistently told them we don’t want it,” Kelleher said. “We always thought this would never happen and now it’s happening fast.”

Kelleher and the neighborhood’s 11th hour attempt to convince the city to ditch the roundabout was spurred by news that city planners hit the brakes on 11 roundabouts planned for busy intersections in far north Fort Worth. City officials told elected leaders during a recent council meeting that engineers determined traffic signals would be a better option for managing traffic.

With a swath of Randol Mill closed until Oct. 4 for the roundabout construction, Kelleher said she wondered why the city was sticking with the roundabout despite opposition. She said neighbors want a traditional light with turn lanes. Fearing increased traffic from possible housing development, Kelleher is also worried Randol Mill is too narrow to handle additional traffic.

Though surrounded by suburban DFW, this particular stretch of Randol Mill Road near the Trinity River has remained mostly rural. Many, like Kelleher, have owned large tracks of land where they raise cattle, horses and other livestock. Kelleher said she worries the roundabout won’t accommodate large stock trailers.

“Randol Mill is such a poorly maintained road,” she said. “It’s a safety concern.”

The city has no plans to pull back on the roundabout, a spokeswoman said.

A May study showed that while a light and roundabout would operate similarly with current traffic patterns, the roundabout was more efficient during peak traffic hours because cars would be able to flow through the intersection with less delay. That study showed traffic was sustainable through 2040 with a roundabout.

The roundabout is also safer with less predicted fatal crashes, city spokeswoman Janice Thompson-Burgess said.

The construction of a roundabout will cost about $200,000 more than a traffic light, but the light would require additional property, making the price almost the same, she said.

Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who represents the area, recently organized a town hall where city officials presented information about why the roundabout was chosen. She said neighbors were not swayed and wanted additional data.

“I think we need to use money smartly. If the data we used is valid then lets keep going, but if the data is faulty then let’s rethink this,” Bivens said. “We just want to know the truth.”

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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