Look on the bright side

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So, the report concludes, why not overload these key intersections further? "Poor intersection Level of Service are [sic] forecasted for Pearl and the eastbound service road of Woodall Rodgers but this occurs with or without the Harwood closure taking place." (To ease matters somewhat, the report suggests, the city will construct new, widened turn lanes at Pearl and Woodall Rodgers.)

It isn't the only place where the report chooses to look on the bright side. "Recent presentations by some urban planners suggest that low levels of service, and their associated lower vehicle speeds, may actually be beneficial to promoting ground-floor retail in the downtown environment of cities and should be encouraged." Of course, about the only retail in those blocks is the occasional guy on the median hawking Tyler roses. But Dallas was a city built on optimism, so who knows? Someday we could get squeegees too.

The report contains other interesting assumptions. For one, it estimates that traffic to the Nasher garden itself should not cause any significant problem for downtown streets. In doing so, it seems to confirm the CDA's economic impact numbers. As a source of estimated attendance figures, city planners looked to the Dallas Arboretum, which gets 400 people each weekday. (The DMA has 250,000 weekday visitors per year.)

A serious disparity exists between the Nasher attendance figures the city and the DMA have been floating and those city employees are using. Borrowing the 400 person-a-day figure from the Arboretum and assuming the garden would be open four days a week, the annual weekday visitor tally works out to 83,000 a year--a number that looks awfully close to the CDA's "incremental new attendance figures" of "approximately 100,000 to 200,000 patrons per year above the [DMA's] current level of attendance." (The CDA's figures include weekend visitors.) These numbers are much lower than the figure of "1 million people experiencing the [Nasher] collection annually" that DMA officials have been known to suggest.

Among the other report highlights: the part about St. Paul being able to handle the doubling of its load without significantly downgrading its LOS--an assessment based in part on St. Paul having four lanes at some point. Currently, most mornings, St. Paul has two and a half lanes--one lane being taken up by cars parked illegally on the east side, and the west lane being taken up by the occasional trolley.

The report also contains some unintended humor. At one point, city planners use the infamous Young Street steer sculptures as a comparison, but later note that the steer park "was deemed not the same type of attraction as would be the proposed sculpture garden." ("But that's only an engineer's opinion," the report's author notes.)

To no one's surprise, the report concludes that "closing Harwood to through traffic at this location, except for the morning peak period with the number of lanes reduced from four to two, can be accommodated without significant impact to the street system while maintaining essential circulation and access requirements."

The closing must yet go through what Suhm describes as a "whole process" of city plan subcommittees, which will approve, disapprove, or modify and send it to the full planning committees, which will approve, disapprove, or modify and then send it to the full city council for a vote.

And then, finally, we may get what we asked for--for better and for worse.

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Christine Biederman