Traffic Calming Measures Favor Neighbors Over Speed

Changes could benefit other Dallas neighborhoods

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A lane reduction test on an accident-prone stretch of Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff starting Saturday is just one of the traffic calming measures in Oak Cliff that could be examples for the rest of Dallas.

Drivers normally like more lanes added to North Texas roadways and not taking lanes away.

The 90-day trial on Jefferson Boulevard between Polk Street and Hampton Road will remove one traffic lane in each direction as a trial to improve safety by making it harder for drivers to speed.

A fatal accident on July 19 was one of 43 wrecks on that segment of Jefferson in the past year.

Police said Armando Esparza, 48, was killed by a driver going 76 miles an hour in the 30 mile per hour zone.

“It's a tragedy for all of us. A very innocent man just doing his job,” said neighbor Lee Ruiz.

The resident said he heard the fatal crash around the corner from his front porch, which overlooks Jefferson.

The roadway expands from two lanes in each direction to thee each way just west of Polk Street.

“The availability of that extra lane turning it into a launching pad for these speeders,” Ruiz said.

Dallas City Councilman Chad West who represents the neighborhood said residents debated lane reduction to slow speed on Jefferson for more than a year, long before the deadly wreck.

“Instead of just jumping into a demonstration right then, which we’ve learned upsets people, we had task force meetings that were regular, amongst neighbors,” West said.

The fatal wreck boosted the urgency for the 90-day test that starts Saturday.

“If we see traffic really backing up in one area, staff will adjust it accordingly,” West said. “And then determine, hey, is this something we want permanently, or is it really pushing too much traffic into neighborhoods. But we've got to try it.”

The City of Dallas has nearly finished construction of a new traffic circle that will slow vehicles at the spot where Tyler and Polk Streets merge from 3 lane one-way high-speed streets in opposite directions.

“In the 70’s they turned those streets one way in each direction for the sole purpose of traffic speeding through, which of course creates danger for all of us that live here,” Ruiz said. “And hopefully now a generation later we're in a position to fix those things.”

Tyler and Polk are being converted into slower, two-way neighborhood streets with another reconfiguration of the segments between Jefferson and 12th Street.

Another traffic calming measure Councilman West is pushing would increase the number of intersections with stop signs by reducing the area required for 2/3rds majority signatures. Currently residents in a 900 foot radius are polled.

“That’s a lot of signatures, including signatures outside of the neighborhood and into commercial districts from people that have no interest in what’s going on at that intersection,” Ruiz said.

West wants to reduce the circle to 300 feet from the intersection.

“I feel like that would bring more control of the traffic to the neighbors that are actually experiencing it,” West said.

The stop sign regulation change was opposed by city planners six years ago, but West said he believes new officials may support it.

Ruiz said the traffic calming measures West is promoting could improve many Dallas neighborhoods, not just Oak Cliff.

“And we’re encouraged by his efforts and hopefully the efforts of the city staff to change the long-term mentality of the city which was to simply move traffic as quickly as they could,” Riuz said.

According to NBC5 media partner, the Dallas Morning News, the 22-year old driver of the vehicle that caused the fatal Jefferson Boulevard accident was charged with manslaughter.

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