Road warriors

East Dallas residents rally to buy time against Haskell Avenue bulldozers

Her building is home to a small antique store and the office of state Rep. Terri Hodge. "There are beautiful buildings all through this neighborhood," Mattox says. "Some of the oldest businesses in town are here," she says, pointing to Patterson Meat Co., the old Adler Hotel, and numerous storefronts of green grocers during a quick tour of the area.

"Of course, the neighborhood needs improvements in drainage and the roads," Mattox says. "But six lanes?" And, adds Chandler, "why is the cost so high?"

The cost, says O'Reilly, is simply the price of progress for a city that must find a way to accommodate growing use of Fair Park and urban traffic congestion in general. Fair Park now attracts 12 to 15 million visitors a year, a number that has doubled in the last decade, according to an August 1997 public works report. The Dallas Plan also has made rebuilding communities a priority, O'Reilly says. "The plan is very clear about taking heavy traffic out of the East Dallas neighborhoods and turning them into places where people can walk or ride bicycles again."

This latest Haskell Avenue go-round has piqued the interest of at least a few City Council members, some of whom mentioned their constituents' concerns at last week's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee meeting. The area includes the districts of freshmen council members John Loza and Veletta Lill. Both have raised questions about the seemingly sudden change in plans for the road. Even freshman council member Sandy Greyson, whose far North Dallas district comes nowhere near Haskell Avenue, has weighed in.

"I know this has been a long process, but it doesn't seem like we're there yet. Somehow we have to get broader public participation on this issue than we have had," Greyson says.

As a result of the latest discord, the council's transportation committee has sent "Modified Options D and D-2" back to the Haskell Executive Committee for 60 to 90 days of public hearings. A rather frustrated O'Reilly says that means more rounds of community discussion on a topic she thought had been settled long ago. The changes are coming, she says. It will be at least seven years before any construction starts, but there will be no stopping the bulldozers.

For his part, Chandler was happy to have bought a bit more time to shop his cause around the neighborhood. "We're just the little guys. But we're going to keep walking the neighborhood and letting people know what's going on. We may be able to change this thing yet.

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