DALLAS – Once meant to channel office crowds to nearby freeways and the outlying suburbs, downtown's one-way streets have become a confusing hinderance to the thousands who now call the city center home.
Some, such as Chandra Cleaves, prefer walking instead of driving through downtown for that very reason.
“It’s just safer, and it’s less confusing,” the office worker said on a stroll to a restaurant during her lunch break. “I prefer to walk downtown as opposed to drive.”
The roads are wide, traffic can be sparse and the signs often overlooked. Cleaves admits turning the wrong direction onto a downtown street and facing oncoming traffic.
“It only took me one time, now I know better,” she said. “You learn from your mistakes!”
To clear the confusion, the city is now changing course to allow traffic to flow both ways on some of its one-way streets.
“People feel like when they’re on one-way streets they have trouble getting from one place to the other,” said John Crawford, president of Downtown Dallas Inc., which recommended the changes after studying traffic patterns.
“The perception is that two-way is better than one-way, because you have to circle the block,” he said.
That wasn’t always so. Decades ago, Dallas converted many of the streets to one-way to better ease traffic onto surrounding interstates. The concept, Crawford says, was to better accommodate office crowds leaving downtown skyscrapers for the suburbs.
Downtown Dallas has since evolved to include more apartments and residents.
The city is now spending $900,000 to add more traffic lights and re-stripe five streets to allow traffic to flow in both directions. Some parking may be eliminated, but crews do not expect to alter any sidewalks.
“We think these two-way conversions will make a difference,” Crawford said.
The city says the following one-way streets should be converted by March 2013:
- Akard Street from Commerce Street to Pacific Avenue
- Federal Street from Akard Street to Ervay Street
- Patterson Street from Field Street to Akard Street
Two more streets should be converted by Spring of 2013:
- Field Street from Pacific Avenue to Wood Street
- Houston Street from Elm Street to Young Street
“This is a good step in making downtown traffic flow better,” wrote Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who represents downtown, in an email to News 8. “It will have the added benefit of creating a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.”
The project was supposed to be finished more than a year ago. The funding was approved in 2006. Yet traffic lights (still covered and facing the opposite direction) are only now appearing on the streets.
The city blames the delays on problems installing the traffic light poles. Underground obstructions forced crews to move the poles and redesign the signals, said city spokesperson Frank Librio.
The city says it may consider changing more streets once the first five are re-routed. Of course, some worry the changes will just create more confusion.
“I just know from the past,” said downtown worker Amy Gafford. “Anytime they change all the streets in other places, it’s a mess.”