Well, We Were Going to Talk About Complete Streets. But Then the Council Ran Out of Road.

ProposedPilotsForCompleteStreets.jpg
From today's briefing to the council's Transportation and Environment Committee
The council's Transportation and Environment Committee kicked off its 1 p.m. meeting with a review of the LBJ Express project, with TxDOT and Trinity Infrastructure reps telling council members: "There is possibility you will receive complaints about noise" related to construction, but, hey, they're moving as fast as they can -- and they're retooling those sound walls where need be, making some taller than 12 feet. A few other items of note: The pedestrian walkway wasn't torn down as scheduled because upon further review, the demo crews realized there "was a better way to do this that was much safer for the general public"; utility relocation will be the hardest part of the project, given there are some 350 conflicts; and TxDOT has signed off on the 635-Dallas North Tollway exchange.

Council asked a few questions, about noise and dust and clearing wrecks during construction and how lousy access is to the Galleria. "That connection right now is not all that great," said Linda Koop, referring to the "visioning" for that "quadrant" involving Valley View Center. She was told the LBJ Express-ers would look at "recommendations" to fix 'er up. We'll see. But this mammoth project -- which is being funded by private companies and the feds and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, among others -- is way out of the city council's hands.

Can't say the same about your neighborhood street. Which brings us to one of the council's favorite subjects: Complete Streets, which has been on the to-do list since October of '09. And which the TEC was supposed to discuss today ...

A few times in recent months we've spoken with Peer Chacko, second-in-command in Sustainable Development and Construction, about how and when the city intends to roll out that Complete Streets manual, which we ought to see some time in the spring. But as Chacko's reminded -- when we discussed that Better Ross Avenue and that ongoing photo contest -- before they wrap writing the manual the city wants to do more pilot design projects a la Ross Ave. Among the possible places we've discussed in the past: Lower Greenville, the Park Lane station, near Fair Park. The list you see above has 14 potential sites, all subject to change pending public input -- the council's too.

Funny thing is: After a long, delayed talk about parts per million, the council ran out of time to hold its briefing on Complete Streets.

Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development, had just enough time to tell the council that she and Chacko have been meeting with council members to talk about where to plant to those pilots. At which point she quickly introduced Chacko and flashed the map, which, she explained, was put together with some council members' input but is by no means complete.

Or funded. At all.

"What Peer's project does is identify streets where we think residents will be interested," she said. "Some we hope won't be too complicated." And others, she said, will be "limited," fingers crossed, so there won't be the need to find much money.

"All these do is start to identify those segments where we feel there's popular support," she explained. O'Donnell said the hope is that maybe they can find some money for these project in the coming bond election. Again, fingers crossed.

Koop cautioned the council members on the committee not to get their hopes up: Don't think at year's end, she said, that these pilots will be 50 percent toward design or competition or that they'll be "sufficiently far enough along to put on the bond program. Don't expect anything. Some folks have bond money from unused projects that could be eligible for Complete Streets projects in your district ... and some won't."

She then closed the meeting with these words of wisdom: "Transportation projects take a long time. A long time."
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12 comments
williamedia
williamedia

So why is the city the only initiating these demonstrations of complete streets? The whole reason they work right now is because the Better Block guys and others organize them and work within the community to do things on a shoe string budget. They are neighborhood guys who rally their neighbors. When they do it that way land owners and businesses owners are willing to donate time, money and materials to improve their own neighborhood. The whole point is that the city doesn't have to wait on some slow rolling transportation budget to play with how to change things for the better.

One of the biggest advantages of the Better Block guys is they are doing all the visioning and community work for the city without having to wait on the government to wade through all its oily sticky mess. Governments are slow because there is so much and so many peoples tax dollars at stake. Dallas does a lot of vision plans and they pay out the nose to hire consultants to study this and study that. The Better Block guys live in their own neighborhood have a passion for a better community and lead their community towards that goal successfully. They do work with the city where they have to but they are not restricted by city bonds and city council budgeting sessions.

If the city wants to initiate these testing better block complete street projects they need to stop looking at what they can slowly program into their bond money over the next few decades but instead look at how they can initiate/encourage 20-50 better block team leaders in every Dallas Neighborhood to jump start these neighborhood initiatives. The Oak Cliff Better Block guys are already stretched thin trying to play with what could be in Oak Cliff.

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is not a bad idea but remember that Better Block has no one to answer to but themselves, and their demonstrations have been temporary in nature. Once you start spending tax dollars and making more or less permanent changes to infrastructure, you better be damn sure you have vetted the ideas with the affected constituents, which is a whole host of people beyond the neighborhoods. The point is not that Better Blocks are bad. But the point is that it would be irresponsible to implement their ideas on a permanent basis in a quick fashion. The only thing that would guarantee is a nightmare for city hall. As it is, Team Better Block supported the Bishop Davis zoning changes which are just now beginning to rear their ugly heads on the neighborhoods.

Restaurantqualityblender
Restaurantqualityblender

Exactly right. If anyone needs a live example of first stage thinking and the law of unintended consequences look no further than lowest Greenville avenue. Even the greatness of Ships might be going out of business. It all sounded so good in theory, didn't it, Hunt and friends - and that means you, too, Wilonsky; you and the Observer are basically a bully pulpit for Hunt's half baked agendas.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

As much as I admire the better block folks and their ideas they are incomplete. I think they would make great set dressers for a movie company.The pennies they spend on Props translate in to hundreds of thousands of dollars if undertaken in construction world.

And who is going to do the daily maintenance that it will take to keep these areas presentable ?

Anonymous
Anonymous

To say nothing of the fact that the surrounding neighborhoods aren't even sold on their ideas in the first place. Better Block is good at promoting themselves, to be sure, but less good at working with constituents. The Tyler Davis shop owners would love to close down that section of Kings Highway and turn it into parking for their customers. Better Block wants to make it a pedestrian plaza.

Paul
Paul

Be afraid, be very afraid when someone in municipal government starts talking about "visioning".

Quite frankly it sounds like a bunch of New Age hippies sitting in a sweat lodge eating peyote buttons and claiming that Carlos Castenada is nonfiction.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I started Visioning as a young lad under the covers at night .....

Now I am almost blind .

elbueno
elbueno

Park Lane is one I haven't thought about, but have you ever realized that North Park doesn't even have sidewalks??

elbueno
elbueno

"Transportation projects take a long time. A long time."But in the case of Complete Streets, they also take a lot less money. A LOT less money...

especially when compared to say, I dunno, a Convention Center Hotel??

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

A deck park built with 16 million dollars of Fed. infracture money could have repaired a lot of streets.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

What is planned for Davis ?

And will it include this http://www.oakcliffta.org/ as part of the planning and construction or will Davis be ripped up at a later date to put the tracks down ?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I've left a message for Chacko to find out what they didn't get to explain at today's briefing.

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