As Cedar Springs traffic plan moves ahead, parking looms

Posted on 15 Mar 2012 at 5:23pm

Merchants say long-term plan includes parking structure; street unlikely to be narrowed as part of ongoing safety improvements

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NO LEFT TURNS  | Crews install crosswalk signs on Cedar Springs at Reagan Street earlier this year. Scott Whittall, executive director of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said the intersection won’t get a traffic signal, but left turns onto Cedar Springs likely will be prohibited. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Working with the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, the city of Dallas has begun traffic and pedestrian safety upgrades on Cedar Springs Road between Oak Lawn and Douglas avenues.

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PARKING PROBLEM PERCOLATES | Whittall, shown behind the counter at Buli Cafe, sold the business last year because he was unable to expand it due to parking requirements.

While these improvements are welcome, both city officials and business owners agree that solving the area’s parking woes will also be critical to maintaining the strip’s vitality.

“Parking needs to be looked at, with more than just parking on the street,” said Peer Chacko, assistant director of development services for the city.

Chacko said in most parts of the city, property owners are required to provide enough parking for their tenants. In some places, like Knox Street and Downtown, property owners collaborate to solve parking problems.

“That’s the direction they [Cedar Springs Road property owners] need to go,” he said.

Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall agreed.

“We’re developing long-term plans to develop a parking structure,” Whittall said.

Whittall said a parking garage is needed to attract businesses, as well as patrons who want a safe place to park. Several options and locations are being considered, but Whittall said he wasn’t prepared to discuss them in more detail this week.

Last year, Whittall sold his Cedar Springs coffee shop, Buli, because he was unable to expand into the vacant space next door due to parking requirements.

And much of the crime in the area involves Cedar Springs patrons who are victimized late at night as they walk to and from cars parked blocks away.

The traffic safety improvements, which began in January, come in response to four collisions involving pedestrians within a few months late last year.

Since then, the city has installed flashing, eye-level warning signs at multiple crosswalks.

The crosswalk lights were supposed to flash nonstop for only the first 30 days — but Whittall said they continue to do so because the city is working on obtaining parts.

Although the signs and lights have been installed, the devices to regulate the lights haven’t. Whittall said either sensors or buttons will be installed. The sensors would make the lights flash as soon as someone steps into a crosswalk. The buttons would activate the lights when pushed. Whittall said he believes the latter system will be used.

Meanwhile, studies have been conducted to determine whether traffic signals are needed at Knight Street and Reagan Street.

“The traffic light at Reagan is not going to happen,” Whittall said.

However, Reagan Street will become right-turn-only onto Cedar Springs Road from either direction.

The traffic signal at Knight Street is already funded and will be added by July. The city is looking at the configuration. Because Knight Street jogs at Cedar Springs, it will probably be a three-way light with only right turns allowed onto Cedar Springs.

Traffic buttons in front of Kroger have not been effective in preventing left turns. The city considered a small median, but that could be a problem during events such as the gay Pride parade.

Whittall said at the last meeting between merchants and the city, they discussed removable plastic traffic stakes.

Pedestrian traffic on that end of the strip is only expected to increase. Three of the pedestrian collisions — including a fatal one — occurred there.

Eric Pederson of the Crosland Group said his company plans to break ground on ilume 2 in late spring.

That property is northeast of Cedar Springs and Knight, diagonally across from the first ilume. Once the new development opens, residents will be crossing Douglas Avenue to Kroger. Traffic travels on that street faster than on Cedar Springs, making it potentially more dangerous to pedestrians.

A final consideration of the traffic plan — narrowing Cedar Springs to one lane of traffic in each direction — is not likely to happen.

Chacko said there were mixed feelings among merchants about narrowing the street.

“There are ways to improve the pedestrian environment,” he said, without removing lanes of traffic.

“Our sense is to slow traffic rather than reduce capacity,” he said.

Whittall noted that when the Cedar Springs bridge over the Dallas North Tollway was closed for a year, traffic diverted to Lemmon Avenue and has not rebounded, resulting in a loss of business.

And a traffic study showed that motorists are already slowing in the area, traveling an average of 33 mph on Cedar Springs from Knight Street to Oak Lawn Avenue.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2012.

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