Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, caught between residents in his Near South Side district who want the Forest Park "Road Diet" and others who don't, is re-iterating his support for it.
Here's his email letter to constituents late today:
Friends and neighbors,
There’s been a great deal of new discussion regarding Forest Park Blvd. and I am writing to let you know about the current and future status of this project and hope you will take the time to read this email in its entirety.
Forest Park Blvd. is an important roadway for both our community and our city, but unfortunately it has become a traffic safety concern for those who live nearby. Over the past three years, there have been more than 40 documented vehicular wrecks on Forest Park Blvd. (and there have been at least three times that many calls to police for accidents where no police reports were filed), which are high numbers for this type of road in a residential setting. Community safety concerns were further heightened when a child was hit by a car on a recent Halloween night.
Many nearby residents began to propose changes to the road in order to slow down traffic. According to the traffic engineers, we can put up speed radar signs and post police officers to enforce speed limits, but nothing will be more effective in slowing traffic than changing the road conditions. Thus, a “Road Diet” was proposed by concerned area residents to slow traffic by re-striping the boulevard from four lanes to three lanes (two through lanes with a center left-turn lane and pedestrian/bike lanes on each side).
I was originally hesitant to support this citizen-led initiative because I feared increased traffic on University Dr., 8th Ave. and surrounding neighborhood streets. I was also concerned about residents’ ability to pull onto Forest Park Blvd. and had some of the same concerns expressed from many of you. But I’ve had a chance to listen to the facts and review TPW Department’s extensive traffic studies and computer traffic modeling. I’ve also listened to the more than 400 residents who responded online or participated at several public meetings dating back to 2011. With this information—and after a very strong recommendation from our professional traffic engineers (with a number of modifications to the original proposals)—I felt compelled to support the project. And my primary reason for supporting these traffic improvements remains the same today:
These planned changes improve safety. And I believe all Fort Worth travelers—whether behind a wheel of a car, walking along a sidewalk to school, or on the seat of bike—deserve to be as safe as possible, regardless of which neighborhood they may start or end their travels.
I have read a great deal of misinformation in recent days about the proposal and the situation has been exacerbated by uncertainty from the City about how and when the improvements would occur. The project actually has two separate (and separately contracted) components: the re-striping that you have heard much about, and signalization modernization and intersection improvements at the four intersections (Rosedale, Mistletoe, Park Place and Park Hill). The signal and intersection improvements—which perhaps haven’t been as widely discussed—are designed to reduce travel time without increased speeds. To maximize safety and reduce disruption and costs, I have asked TPW staff to implement these improvements concurrently.
The City has had difficulty in coordinating these efforts (including the bankruptcy of the original striping contractor), which have delayed the project. TPW staff originally believed the project would be complete before the beginning of the school year, and I am now told the earliest the project could begin would be in November, but that it could be later. For those eager to see the implementation of the Forest Park Blvd. traffic improvements, I apologize for the delays.
Once the enhancements to Forest Park Blvd. are complete, city staff will closely monitor the road conditions and report back to us after three months. At that time, we will gather public input and evaluate whether or not the project was successful and/or if there are any additional changes needed to improve safety and traffic flow.
For more information about the specifics of the project, please visit www.fortworthtexas.gov/fpb.
I thank everyone who voiced their support and concerns about these changes to Forest Park Blvd. No matter what side you are on, every point of view is important. Ultimately, I do believe the planned enhancements to Forest Park Blvd. will improve safety for all of us, while maintaining the current vehicular traffic capacity, both in volume and travel times.
I will share more information as it’s available to me, however, should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call my office at 817-392-8809 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter