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New Plan Calls For More Sidewalks To Improve Walkability In Dallas

Intersection in a neighborhood. Some businesses are nearby and the crosswalk forms a V in the foreground.
Molly Evans
/
KERA
An intersection with crosswalks in Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood.

While the city of Dallas is walkable if you’re in certain parts like downtown, in other parts you’re out of luck.

That’s part of what city leaders are hoping to address in the “Dallas Sidewalk Master Plan,” which seeks to improve walkability for all Dallas pedestrians.

The Department of Public Works introduced the 28-slide presentation to city council on Wednesday.

Dallas' Sidewalk Master Plan calls for adding sidewalks in parts of the city that don't have many, as well as repairing existing walkways.

“It's about time beyond time to make our infrastructure safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and other forms of micro-mobility, not just cars. And connecting sidewalks is a huge piece of that,” Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Chad West said.

West, who represents Southwest downtown and Oak Cliff, was in support of the plan, calling it a step in the right direction.

Currently, the city of Dallas has more than 4,534 miles of sidewalk, and nearly 50 percent of that system is damaged. The Department of Public Works reported that more than two-thousand miles is left to cover or missing sidewalk.

The plan identifies 12 target areas, the majority of which are in the southern part of the city. Some of those include Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Hampton Crossing, Hampton Rd. & Illinois Ave., Cedar Creek, and Elam Creek. If the plan is adopted, those areas would be the first focus.

sidewalk oaklawn.jpg
Keren Carrión
A group of people walk past an Italian restaurant in Oak Lawn, without masks, on Sunday, March 14, 2021.

“Many sidewalks, particularly in our commercial areas, need maintenance but also need expansion to create more walkable districts,” councilmember Paul E. Ridley said. He represents District 14, which covers parts of downtown and East Dallas.

Authors of the plan determined high-priority areas using five factors: common places of public accommodation, activity access, equity, street classification, citizen requests and pedestrian safety. They also gathered public input and recorded citizens calls for repairs.

Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn, who represents parts of North Dallas, wants to see a “scoring of sidewalks” or more detailed information for each council district to better gauge what’s at the root of the problem.

Ridley and Mendelsohn, along with other council members felt the pedestrian safety factor ranked too low compared to the others. They are urging city leaders to prioritize pedestrian safety.

The sidewalk plan also calls for the establishment of a “Pedestrian Advisory Committee” to ensure that available budget money is being used to fix high-priority damaged sidewalks and tracking systems for transparency in the progress of those repairs. It breaks down that the average cost per district to fix and maintain sidewalks is $141,733,000.

West mentioned that something not addressed in the plan is whether or not utility companies or contractors get a penalty if they dig up sidewalks and leave them not fixed for months. City leaders will explore what that will look like.

Council member Omar Narvaez, whose district includes parts of West Dallas, was concerned about the lack of bilingual information available about this project.

“If we do not make sure that we are able to communicate, besides a yard sign in front of a school, and just translating a survey into Spanish, our Spanish monolingual population is not going to participate,” Narvaez said.

The area he covers has a big Spanish-speaking community and he wants to see outreach to that community so they can have a seat at the table.

Several councilmembers referenced Mayor Eric Johnson’s address at this week’s city council inauguration — “We must get back to basics and build for the future” — by saying that focusing on sidewalks is what it means to focus on the basics.

Leaders with the department of Public Works offered priority action recommendations such as repairing high-crash corridors and intersections, reducing sidewalk gaps and increasing sidewalk coverage near schools.

As city budget discussions ramp up, some councilmembers fear that there won’t be enough money allocated for this project.

“We're gonna have to try to get at it like we do year over year to deal with what is a legacy of underinvestment in certain communities,” city manager T.C. Broadnax said. “And I think this council is trying to step up to make those investments now and give the assurance and commitment that you hear the community.”

Councilmembers will regroup next month to further discuss the plan.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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