City Hall

Why the Need for Thoroughfare Amendments for Bike Lanes? Well, It Was 30 Years Ago ...

On Saturday we previewed today's council look-see at how the new Bike Plan will be implemented; both the Quality of Life and Transportation and Environment committees got the docs Friday night. (There's also a very related briefing on the agenda: the boringly titled but nevertheless fascinating Pavement Markings, which, as you can see above, breaks down the cost of re-striping.) Since posting over the weekend, I've heard from several Bike Plan advocates unhappy with the prolonged process that will involve thoroughfare amendments needing to be passed through City Plan Commission and the council each time someone want to stripe a street. The way they read the docs prepped for today's briefings, the plan's really nothing more than a suggestion without real teeth, since, as the briefing points out, plans are "not designed to be legally binding," and setting them in motion requires adhering to rules and regulations -- in this case, the charter amendment requiring thoroughfare amendments whenever the city wants to touch the concrete.

Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development, says her department discovered the requirement following a recent Complete Streets briefing: A little research dug up the 1981 proposition OK'd by voters that said folks living within 200 feet of a proposed street alteration need to be notified of the do-over, and that there needs to be a public hearing.before council can sign off on it. The historical docs follow.

Says O'Donnell, the change to the city charter came about following what she calls "the East Dallas wars" of the late 1970s and 1980, when "the plan commission and the city council approved some new thoroughfare alignments on Skillman and Abrams to widen them to six lane divided so Lake Highlands people could get in to downtown more quickly. And the economic development people said, 'No, absolutely not.' As a result of those concerns, it was put to the voters, and they approved the charter amendment that requires this. So it wasn't by accident that we have this process, because lots and lots of people are affected when you change the width of the road or if there are bike lanes or parking or not or parking issues or whatever."

The most the city can do without the public's OK is a temporary pilot project, which can last no longer than 90 days.

"So you hope your pilot is successful and becomes permanent," O'Donnell says. "You don't want to spend funds on things where you'll have to grind up the markings 90 days later. Safety concerns and operational adjustments are one thing on paper but something else in the field. You can see it in action: Is it safe? Do other considerations need to be made? The test is a real-world test, and you hope you tested the right area for the right operational change."

Leslie will bring back the council members' takes later today; till then, the history lesson's below.Thoroughfare Plan Proposition

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky