Dallas Needs a Ton of Cash to Fix Obsolete Traffic Signals

Dallas traffic lights are so long neglected that "it is not practical to upgrade all obsolete signals in a short time," city staff said Tuesday.

Half of all stoplights in the city were installed before 1970, Auro Majumdar, Dallas' assistant director of street services said; 70 percent were installed before 1980. Many don't have left turn signals and most — 70 percent — don't have sensors to indicate whether or not a car is at the intersection, slowing traffic and increasing the chances of pedestrian accidents. According to a report Monday on NPR's All Things Considered, 25 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the United States happen when the car striking the pedestrian is turning left.

Majumdar told the City Council's Transportation Committee that it would take $362 million over 25 years to overhaul the city's traffic signals, 80 percent of which are already obsolete.

As noted by council member Monica Alonzo, staff couldn't have picked a better time to ask for the money. During the torrential rains of the last month, lights all over the city have been knocked out, something Majumdar said can often be blamed on old equipment and old wiring.

Without replacement, every traffic signal in the city would be obsolete by 2040, Majumdar said, suggesting that Dallas act incrementally to start chipping away at the problem. During the first year of light replacement, he said, 18 lights could be replaced. By the fourth year of the program the city would be replacing 60 lights a year at a cost of $14.5 million.

"The sheer amount of money [needed to fix the lights] is almost comparable to our streets," council member Sandy Greyson said.

That's not quite true City streets need about $900 million in upgrades, according to the latest estimates, but the two projects will be competing for the same money in Dallas' next bond election. Majumdar said his staff would be asking for a piece of that money, but said that the replacement plan could be started on a pay-as-you-go basis from the existing city budget. 

The first year the plan is in place, Majumdar suggested that the worst light — determined by a points system — in each of Dallas' 14 council districts be replaced. 

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