Dallas Drivers Cope With Tunnel's Lighting Extremes

Woodall Rodgers Freeway tunnel has either blazing lights or total darkness

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Friday, Nov 4, 2011  |  Updated 7:50 PM CDT
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The tunnel created by the new Woodall Rodgers Deck Park is too dark for some, too bright at night.

Ken Kalthoff, NBCDFW

The tunnel created by the new Woodall Rodgers Deck Park is too dark for some, too bright at night.

Drivers in the Woodall Rodgers Freeway tunnel are confronting both blazing lights and total darkness during the construction of Dallas' deck park overhead.

The park will bridge the downtown freeway, creating a tunnel between Akard and Pearl streets.

But while it's under construction, drivers have found the tunnel to be either extremely dark or extremely bright.

"I’m not used to it," Travis Morton said. "I mean, whenever I'm driving through there during the day, you can't really see traffic lines. Cars come out of nowhere."

The Texas Department of Transportation is installing a lighting system designed to make traveling through the tunnel comfortable for drivers.

Along with overhead lights activated 24 hours per day, brighter lights along the sides of the tunnel will shine during daytime hours.

But those bright sidelights have also been blaring at night, so drivers go from a dark highway to daytime brightness in the tunnel.

"At first I was like, 'Oh my God, these lights are so bright,'" driver Kathy Alexander said.

When the system is complete, it will automatically adjust the amount of lighting based on ambient light levels, said Duane Milligan, TxDOT project manager.

"We're still constructing," he said. "Not all the lights have been installed. We're doing that on a nightly basis; we're installing more lights."

Milligan said the freeway's main lanes will be closed at times during the next two weekends to lay the park's final support beams across the road.

That will eliminate any gaps that currently allow daylight to shine through.

"And that's why we had to get some of these lights functional before we could completely enclose the tunnel," Milligan said.

Overnight light installation is another construction challenge for drivers.

"A lot of traffic backs up because they're trying to put a lot of lights in there, so hopefully it will be worth the while," Devin Whitaker said.

Tunnel construction is due to be completed early next year. After that, the city of Dallas will begin work on the park's landscaping and other features.

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