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Dallas Traffic Lights Are Terrible, So City Wants to Spend $250 Million on an Overhaul

In the industry, this is what's known as a "structural failure."
In the industry, this is what's known as a "structural failure."
City of Dallas

You're right. Your mind, however warped it may be by traffic-induced rage, is not playing tricks on you. Dallas' 1,500 traffic signals are just as terrible as you think they are, maybe more so. By the city's own admission, they're plagued by outages and are far more likely to topple in a stiff wind than they should be. The majority have broken sensors, meaning they can no longer detect the presence of cars and must instead rely on their mindless pre-programmed timing schedule. Nearly 80 percent are classified as "obsolete."

Of course, that's what happens when you neglect something until it breaks, which has been the city's maintenance strategy over the past several decades.

City officials think now might be the time to change that. The Dallas City Council was briefed this morning on a 25-year, $250 million plan to overhaul the city's traffic signals and implement a plan of regular maintenance.

"We don't have a comprehensive program, and we think that's really important for a system that's the age of Dallas'," assistant city manager Forest Turner told the council.

Council members lapped it up. Sandy Greyson called the plan "terrific." Dwaine Caraway said he'd be "totally supportive." Philip Kingston applauded interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez "for a renewed focus on infrastructure."

City staffers recommend replacing 60 signals during the first year, though whether that goal is met depends on whether $10 million can be found in next year's budget. Same goes for the years after that.

For now, though, everyone seems to agree it will be worth the investment, since the new signals will meet federal and state standards, reduce congestion, lower maintenance, and operations cost. Also -- and this is particularly important -- they will come equipped with sensors that can detect bicycles. The next step will be implanting those in driver's skulls.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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