Texas

Denton’s crosswalk project begins Monday at the square.

Construction will begin Monday on the ramps and painted lines of the diagonal crosswalks at the corner of North Elm and West Oak Streets near Downtown Square, Robin Davis, construction project manager for the City of Denton, said at a virtual community meeting Thursday night.

Davis estimates that the stamped concrete ramp at the corner of Oak and Elm Streets will take a week to complete. One lane will be closed and several parking spaces will be unavailable. Davis said they should open in the evening when construction crews leave for work.

The city plans to complete a quarter of the intersection each week for the next four and a half months. The next intersection to be completed could be at the corners of Elm and East Hickory streets, Davis said. She said contractor Floyd Smith wanted to analyze how the week would go.

“We want to make sure that all restaurants and businesses are accessible to the greatest extent possible and that we are not blocking traffic,” Davis said. But she did indicate that there could be some road and sidewalk closures, especially as concrete pours begin.

The downtown crosswalk and pedestrian safety project is due to be completed by June 15, although Davis said they hope to complete it sooner.

“We think it will help,” Davis said. “Many know about it [the diagonal crosswalks]but we want it to be striped and signed so everyone knows they can use it that way.”

The completed project will add diagonal stamped concrete walkways at each plaza intersection, Davis said. The City plans to build ramps at each corner of the intersection and move pedestrian signal buttons for easier access.

They also plan to repaint the white stripes of the existing horizontal crosswalks to match the new diagonal crosswalks.

In late April 2021, the City held two virtual meetings with community members, property owners, and the Denton Main Street Association to provide an opportunity for additional feedback and updates on the design phase of the project.

At Thursday’s meeting, several residents raised questions about the project, including whether they were going to do something about people trying to turn right at a red light in the square. Currently turning right on red is prohibited.

Davis said it was an enforcement problem and planned to contact the Denton police about it.

Sally Austin, who was present, was concerned about how this would affect blind people trying to cross the street. She was worried that the design didn’t take into account how it would affect them.

“A person who can’t see anything is a big disadvantage and should be given special attention,” Austin said.

Austin was relieved that the current level crossings would continue to be accessible to the blind.

Another person asked if the city would refund rent to businesses affected by the project. But Davis said she didn’t know about it.

“We are interfering with as few businesses and parking lots as possible,” Davis said.

The Contiguous Intersections Project first began in November 2019 when a “pedestrian-only phase” was implemented at four downtown intersections as part of a pilot project until spring 2020.

The project, according to Discussdenton.com, tested the effectiveness of stopping vehicles when the pedestrian signal was activated, allowing pedestrians to cross the intersection at the same time in either direction.

Stuart Birdseye, spokesman for the city of Denton, said that in a full crossing situation, all vehicles are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street safely. Horizontal pedestrian crossings will remain. They just added diagonal crosswalks.

“This is the approach you see in [other] downtown to improve pedestrian safety,” Birdseye said.

Since 2017, there have been several car accidents involving pedestrians in the Downtown Square area, according to Denton police. In late September 2017, one occurred on West Hickory and a few months later, in late January 2018, another occurred on East Oak.

In early September 2019, Police Officer Denton’s car hit a pedestrian when the officer turned a corner off North Elm Street on Hickory to respond to a riot involving a drunk man, Record-Chronicle reports.

Since the pilot program was launched in November 2019, there have been no accidents involving pedestrians in the Downtown Square area, confirmed Amy Cunningham, public relations spokeswoman for Denton Police.

The pilot project was completed in July 2020. Based on these results, the Denton City Council gave the green light to the project for full implementation by approving a professional service agreement with Kimley-Horn and associations for the Crosswalk Pedestrian Safety Improvement Project.

CHRISTIAN MCFAIT can be reached at 940-220-4299 and on Twitter at @writerontheedge.



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