Dallas to Get Moving on Dangerous Old Traffic Signals

Dallas leaders on Wednesday endorsed plans to finally replace old traffic signals.

They've been ignored through so many tight city budgets that 80 percent of the equipment at the 1,400 signal intersections around the city are older than the 25-year recommended safe lifespan.

"People actually get hurt when the signals are not working correctly, and people do not invest in the community if they see things not working as they should," Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez told the City Council at a briefing Wednesday.

Council members saw pictures of old Dallas signals that collapsed.

The traffic-signal problem was pushed aside in recent years while Dallas addressed the poor condition of street pavement first. Now, replacing all of the outdated signals will cost $196 million that the city still can't afford at once.

"This is a step-by-step-over-the-years program -- what we've done with our streets -- to get rid of all the old signals," Councilwoman Sandy Greyson said.

Gonzalez suggests $10 million per year for the next 20 years, starting with the budget to be written next summer. But it would mean major traffic-signal replacement will wait another year.

"It is time for this upgrade," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said. "It's clearly needed, and I'm totally supportive of doing that."

New computer equipment and pavement sensors to provide traffic-light synchronization features on more streets to move traffic more smoothly would also be included.

But city officials are also exploring the added use of images from police surveillance cameras to make the traffic system even smarter.

Mayor Mike Rawlings said he agrees with council members who are anxious to make progress on the traffic-signal problem but wants the technology to hold up for 20 years as Dallas pays for the plan.

"I'm not excited about moving forward unless we a have a vision for smart cities with this," he said.

City officials will return with more information before the traffic-signal plans are put in place next year.

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