It isn’t quite Tupac versus Biggie, but East Dallas is split over what should be done about the future of the neighborhood’s most talked about intersection.
Earlier this month, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) representatives presented their preferred plan, which sends two lanes of southbound Garland traffic onto westbound Gaston towards Lakewood, East Dallas and downtown.
While the intersection has other improvements, including crosswalks and future access to connect to the Santa Fe trail, it is the Garland-to-Gaston traffic pattern that provoked neighbors.
A group called the East Dallas Coalition of Neighborhoods, which includes members from several groups on the west side of the lake, is advocating for continued public input. Coalition members are against the preferred plan’s flow of traffic from Garland Road, a state highway, onto neighborhood thoroughfare Gaston Ave. Their proposed redesign of the intersection sends the majority of traffic south from Garland toward I-30, with only one turn lane onto westbound Gaston. But many neighbors on the east side of the lake say TxDOT’s preferred plan means traffic should flow quickly and safely from Garland to Gaston.
In an email to neighbors, Swiss Avenue resident and preservationist Virginia McAlester encourages neighbors to print and submit a comment card to TxDOT before Feb. 2 to question the preferred plan. “TxDOT seeks to perpetuate a traffic pattern left over from when East Dallas was nothing more than a place to tear down houses for apartments and an area to widen as many streets as possible to hasten traffic through it,” she writes.
McAlester criticizes both TxDOT’s communication of the plan and the plan itself. “Redesign is an opportunity to improve safety and reduce traffic through East Dallas,” she writes. “Both Garland Road and East Grand are State Highway 78, and both have six lanes, medians and left-turn lanes. East Grand even has wide grassy medians and shoulders for additional safety. Gaston only has four lanes and it is a residential collector to serve local residents and businesses – not highway traffic, even though that is where most of it goes even today.”
But some residents who live on the east side of the lake, including those in Highland on the Creek, Forest Hills, Little Forest Hills and Casa Linda, think TxDOT’s plan represents realistic traffic patterns and improves safety. John Botefuhr is a Casa Linda resident and Garland Road business owner who goes through the intersection several times a day. He thinks the East Dallas Coalition’s plan to channel more traffic onto Garland and Grand isn’t realistic. “Nobody is going to take I-30 to return back to Lakewood like what is believed,” he says. “It is elitist. It’s like building a wall to keep people out.”
Katie Anderson, a Highland on the Creek resident, is also critical of the coalition’s plan to divert traffic out of East Dallas and onto I-30 via Grand. “I am not ever in my lifetime going to go to I-30,” she says after attending many meetings about the intersection. “It is just as fast to go to Gaston. It’s an unrealistic desire on their part. We are going Gaston and that is the reality.”
Susan Stephens also lives east of White Rock Lake and doesn’t think the coalition’s plan is going to change driver behavior. “It isn’t going to be the most efficient way to go to Lakewood, and the alternate is even worse,” she says of the coalition’s plan. “People will start cutting through the neighborhood.”
Patrick Blaydes, an urban planner who lives in Little Forest Hills, sees TxDOT’s plan as a prioritization of the automobile. He believes this is the wrong direction for East Dallas. “The driving force is for automotive traffic,” he says. “If we build a street for 18-wheelers, then that’s what we will get.” Blaydes, who works for the Better Block Coalition, would like to see Dallas prioritize walkable corridors that facilitate bicycle travel.
He sees a shift in the way Dallas is thinking about traveling through the city, but says the plan doesn’t reflect that attitude. “I think all of those alternatives are similar in what they prioritize and end up accomplishing. It is time for us to think about the decision and what the community values and prioritizes.”
TxDOT representatives say they are several steps away from finalizing the plan. “TxDOT will have to review the comments beforehand as well as obtain environmental clearance. So many steps in between before we get to a final phase,” writes Michelle Raglon of TxDOT. “We are certain this plan can be tweaked so the project can get approved and done, not start over.”
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