Over the last few weeks, a group called the Lakewood Citizens for Responsible Traffic (LCFRT) erected yard signs up and down Gaston Avenue asking neighbors to “say no” to the TxDOT-preferred option for the redesign of the Gaston-Garland-Grand intersection. But now there’s a twist to the argument: TxDOT says LCFRT’s preferred option will have the same impact on Gaston Avenue traffic, shooting down LCFRT’s biggest argument.
LCRFT wants TxDOT to reconsider another option for the intersection that more closely resembles a traditional T-intersection. Their hope was to maintain Gaston traffic from southbound Garland at current levels, and believe the preferred Option 2, a “Reverse T,” would further overload Gaston Avenue.
Earlier this week, in an effort to clarify the discussion, the Advocate asked TxDOT to compare traffic impact between Option 1 and Option 2 as cars move from Gaston to Garland and back. In an email response, Michelle Raglon, TxDOT’s public information officer, responded that the traffic assumptions underlying LCFRT’s main argument are incorrect — Option 2 doesn’t negatively impact Gaston Avenue compared with Option 1.
“Option 2 doesn’t push more traffic onto Gaston, because Gaston is not being widened,” Raglon writes. “It only helps with reducing intersection delay. Since this project is not adding capacity, a significant change in the traffic pattern is not expected. The traffic analysis performed assumes that both options have the same traffic volumes.”
The future growth in traffic would be the same for both options, TxDOT says.
“The Garland-Gaston movement is already the primary movement with the highest volume and that is expected to continue,” TxDOT wrote in the email.
According to TxDOT, its preferred Option 2 is advantageous because it adds a traffic signal for northbound Grand Avenue that currently doesn’t stop, provides crosswalks in all directions, reduces crosswalk distance, reduces traffic conflict points, and adds pedestrian and bicycle accommodations. Noting that the primary traffic movement for the area already is from Garland to Gaston, TxDOT says the design “provides enhanced geometric configuration for the primary traffic movement (Gaston-Garland).”
John Botefuhr is an East Dallas neighbor, business owner and former president of the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail. He helped jumpstart the intersection redesign several years ago and has been involved in all the public meetings about 3G. As businesses arrive in the area and East Dallas becomes more dense, he wants the intersection to be safer and more efficient for everyone, not just those who live on Gaston, and he favors Option 2. He says the shorter crosswalks and reduction of commercial traffic attempting to use Garland-Grand to get to I-30 will have an impact on the safety of the intersection.
Botefuhr worries that reducing traffic flowing onto Gaston as it has since the 1920s will cause traffic to cut through Lakewood via Winsted. He doesn’t agree with those who oppose Option 2 because it pushes too much traffic onto Gaston.
“They mean well, but they aren’t looking at the entire area,” he says.
Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the organizers behind LCFRT, disagrees with the traffic conclusion in TxDOT’s email, saying she doesn’t believe traffic on Gaston will remain the same with either option.
“This is a flawed assumption because a) they are removing an entire lane from Garland to Grand and b) drivers will favor a fast moving right turn over a left turn. I am concerned about real life and what drivers will actually do, not the assumptions that TxDOT puts into their models,” she says.
Despite the LCFRT’s desire for Option 1, City staff has provided a letter of support for Option 2, which TxDOT believes is the most efficient way to manage traffic at the 3G intersection. TxDOT says the project has evolved, and “the tweaks that have been made have come from several sources.”
TxDOT is planning another public hearing sometime this fall (no date has been announced), and neighbors and elected officials may comment from a microphone and provide written feedback at that time, potentially leaving open the possibility of changes and continuing to leave the project in a state of limbo as far as neighbors are concerned.
“Staff will make the best engineering decision on the project with the least amount of impacts on the community,” TxDOT says. “Voting on road projects is not a part of the public involvement process.”
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