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City Council Considering $200 Million Stoplight Solution

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
Bud is the most veteran reporter at CBS 11 News with 42 years in m...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Sometimes we don’t appreciate stoplights until they go out and we see the gridlock instantly created.

Currently Dallas’ signal system is on life support.  Drivers may feel like they hit four of every five lights red; but the truth is four of every five traffic lights in Dallas are past their useful life.

“Heat, cold, rain, all of those effect traffic signals,” Dallas Assistant City Manager Forest Turner told the city council. “If it’s aging it requires maintenance, service calls to repair them often, and could be a potential increase for accidents.”

The city says it has nearly 1500 signal-controlled intersections. When functioning optimally those intersections can improve traffic flow and thereby cut down on accidents; while also allowing pedestrians to cross busy streets. But those signals get damaged in storms, by accidents and sometimes just wear out.

As it stands many of the traffic signals in Dallas don’t meet federal disability guidelines; some pedestrian crossing buttons are too high for people in wheelchairs.

According to another assistant city manager, Jill Jordan, the burden is also increased because 70-percent of the pressure-sensitive left turn traffic detectors simply don’t work. “Actually, I think they’ve been broken so long that people have stopped complaining about them, so we don’t get that many complaints.”

The price tag to fully replace the lights would run nearly $200 million. Instead, city staff is suggesting spreading things out: making 60 replacements a year over 25 years, at a cost of $10 million annually.

Most council members, like Sandy Greyson, like the idea.  “I mean, we think of this as an infrastructure, so I think this is terrific.”

Council members are so on board they’re already jockeying to be at the head of the line.  Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins asked, “What would be replaced first? I mean, how are you prioritizing those 60 [signal lights]?”

Replacement lights would be upgraded to traffic signals already seen in some North Texas suburbs. They would have things like a flashing yellow light to allow extra left turns, while waiting for a green arrow. Many would also be the new generation of flashing strobe-like red lights, meant to grab a motorist’s attention.  “What it does, it draws your eyes to the fact that, ‘Hey, it’s a red light, please stop,'” according to Jordan.

The city council took no action on the matter during Wednesday’s session.

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