Business owners angry about what they call a major safety problem
Five months ago, the city of Dallas spent $5,400 to repair ground-level flashing lights in the Cedar Springs Road crosswalk at Reagan Street.
Weeks later, another city crew sawed into the pavement while resurfacing a portion of Cedar Springs Road and cut the wires that run to the lights, rendering the crosswalk inoperative once again.
Now, a city traffic supervisor has announced that his department doesn’t intend to fix the lights and will no longer pay to maintain the crosswalk.
Nearby business owners are outraged that the city is refusing to repair damage that its crew caused, and they say the broken lights are creating a major safety problem.
"This is a situation where it was functioning fine, and the city made it not function fine," said Scott Whittall, co-owner of nearby Buli CafÃ© and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association. "The people who broke it need to fix it, and that would be the city."
Round-Up Saloon co-owner Alan Pierce said he got the crosswalk installed about five years ago with the help of then-City Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill.
"I’m angry," Pierce said this week. "We’ll definitely argue this case with the city, because that’s just unacceptable really. It’s a very dangerous intersection."
Pierce estimated that about a dozen pedestrians have been struck by vehicles while crossing Cedar Springs Road in the gay entertainment district over the last 10 years, with some being seriously injured.
The crosswalk with ground-level flashing lights, which reportedly is the only one of its kind in the city, was initially billed as an innovative solution to a unique problem. The intersection at Cedar Springs and Reagan isn’t busy enough to warrant a traffic signal, but it has ample foot traffic to make it dangerous, especially at night.
Whittall and Pierce acknowledged that even when the flashing lights are working, some motorists don’t heed the crosswalk. But they said the situation would be — and is — far worse without the lights.
Alex Wong, the city’s program manager for traffic field operations, told Dallas Voice this week that his department is working to come up with a different type of crosswalk because the current one is too expensive to maintain.
Wong estimated his department has spent $6,000 to $8,000 a year repairing the crosswalk since it was installed.
According to Wong, other cities with similar crosswalks have since removed them because of maintenance issues.
"We’re still in the process of designing the replacement," Wong said. "There definitely will not be any lighted LED [light-emitting diode] on the pavement."
Before the crosswalk was repaired in February, the lights had been broken for about six months because the city couldn’t find a suppler for the parts needed to fix it.
Wong acknowledged that a city crew later mistakenly cut wires to the lights while "milling" Cedar Springs Road.
City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district borders Cedar Springs Road on one side, vowed this week to come up with a solution that preserves the ground-level flashing lights.
"This is such a high-traffic pedestrian area, and without this type of safety infrastructure this is just an incredibly unsafe pedestrian area," Hunt said.
"I’ll be pressuring the city to figure out a way that we can make this work."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 24, 2009.