Slimmer Streets

Forest Park Boulevard is headed for a diet, but not everyone’s happy.
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Posted October 2, 2013 by Eric Griffey | Photos By Lee Chastain in News

Though the city has embraced the complete-streets model, it’s missing one of the key components: mass transit.

A few years ago, Fort Worth seemed headed for a modern streetcar system. The city hired an engineering firm to study routes and funding, then won a $25 million federal grant from the Federal Transit Administration to cover about a third of the cost of the starter lines. A 2009 city survey found that 75 percent of residents favored a modern streetcar system, downtown business leaders were in favor of lines that originated downtown, and real estate developers who liked the city’s “urban village” concept were ready to invest in new properties once construction started on the streetcar lines.

Pressley: “It was the scariest moment of my life.”

Pressley: “It was the scariest moment of my life.”

But downtown business leaders grew worried that the streetcars would take tourists and their dollars out of downtown to places like Magnolia Avenue and the Cultural District.

The proponents argued that the streetcars would also bring customers into downtown. But just like that, the council voted not even to proceed with the study and returned the grant money.

More recently, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) announced that construction of the planned TEX Rail commuter rail line will be delayed.

The northern half of the 27-mile rail project, from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to downtown Fort Worth, will be delayed by a year; the southern section, between downtown, the Near Southside, and Texas Christian University, could be postponed for several years. The project is projected to draw more than 15,000 daily riders using 10 rail stations.

Price has been pushing for The T to get the airport line finished so Fort Worth can better compete with Dallas for tourism dollars.

She said that the council is looking at a variety of other options for public transportation both for the inner city and  outlying areas.

“I don’t think anything is off the table right now,” she said. “I expect ultimately, long term, Fort Worth will have lots of options for you to get around.”

The council has yet to propose anything on the scale of the rejected streetcar system.

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Jordan said that the council needs to talk about the future of road diets and how they fit in with other city plans.

“Right now we are trying to build a lot of roads,” he said. “We need to figure out how to get it right the first time. We have a bond package coming up that’s extremely critical to our mobility. And the issue is, are we repairing the streets to make it easier to ride on, or are we using that money to retrofit a perfectly good street?”

Burns said that if the changes to Forest Park don’t work out, the street could always go back to the way it was.

“The plan is right now, [city staff] will be monitoring it: monitoring counts, monitoring accidents, all of those things, and will give a report back to the council after three months,” he said.

Brown said a lot of the project’s critics misunderstand the city’s motivation for the road diet.

“It is a safety project only,” he said. “[Opponents] get caught up with, ‘You’re trying to put bicycles on our streets and taking up valuable real estate for cars,’ and it’s not. It’s pure and simple a safety project.”

Though the decision has been made to go ahead with the project, opponents like Malloy think there might be enough pressure on council members to halt it.

“My guess is that the mayor and the city council members know there is a lot of opposition, and it’s going to be interesting,” he said. “I’d almost rather wait and see if these people have the balls to do this.

Burns said the project will move ahead. “Nothing has changed,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the neighborhood who believe that somehow it wasn’t going to happen, but no decisions have changed.”

Brown said that the proposed road diet is a great example of people coming together to improve the safety of their neighborhood.

“I didn’t know anything about city activism [when he started],” he said. “It’s cool how far we’ve come, especially given the controversy that has arisen.

“The fundamental approach that we took is the right one,” he said. “I think it ought to be inspiring for other people.”


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