Denton's all-way crosswalk project gets underway Monday on the Square
Construction will begin Monday on the ramps and painted lines for diagonal crosswalks at the corner of North Elm and West Oak streets near the Downtown Square, Robin Davis, the construction project manager for the city of Denton, announced at a virtual community meeting Thursday evening.
Davis estimated that it will take a week to construct the stamped concrete ramp at the corner of Oak and Elm. One lane of traffic will be closed, and a few parking spots will become unavailable. Davis said that they should open back up in the evening when the construction crews leave for the day.
The city plans to complete a quarter of the intersection each week for the next four and half months. The next intersection to be completed, Davis said, could be at the corners of Elm and East Hickory streets. She said that the contractor, Floyd Smith, wants to analyze how this week goes.
“We want to make sure all the restaurants and businesses are available as much as possible and that we’re not blocking traffic,” Davis said. But she pointed out that some road and sidewalk closures could happen, especially when they start pouring concrete.
The All-Way Crossings/Downtown Pedestrian Safety Improvement Project should be completed by June 15, though Davis said they hope to complete it sooner.
“We think it is going to help,” Davis said. “A lot of people know about it [the diagonal crosswalks], but we want it to be striped and signed so everybody knows they can use it this way.”
The completed project will add stamped concrete diagonal crosswalks at each intersection of the Square, Davis said. The city plans to construct ramps at each corner of the intersection and relocate the pedestrian signal buttons for easier access.
They also plan to repaint the white striping of the existing horizontal crosswalks to match the new diagonal crosswalks.
In late April 2021, city staff held two virtual meetings with community members, property owners and the Denton Main Street Association to provide an opportunity for additional feedback and update on the design phase of the project.
At Thursday’s meeting, several residents raised questions about the project, including whether something was going to be done about people trying to make a right-hand turn at a red light on the Square. Currently, there is no turning right on red allowed.
Davis said that it was a problem with enforcement and planned to contact the Denton police about it.
Attendee Sally Austin was concerned about how it would affect blind people who were trying to cross the street. She worried that the design wasn’t taking into consideration how they would be affected.
“A person who can’t see anything is a great disadvantage and should be given extra consideration,” Austin said.
Austin was relieved to hear that the current horizontal crosswalks would still be available for blind people to use.
Another person asked if the city would be issuing rent reimbursements to businesses that are impacted by the project. But Davis said that she wasn’t aware of it.
“We’re disrupting the least amount of businesses and parking as possible,” Davis said.
The all-way crossings project first began in Nov. 2019 when a “pedestrian-only traffic phase” was implemented at four downtown intersections for a pilot project through spring 2020.
The project, according to Discussdenton.com, was testing the effectiveness of stopping vehicle traffic when a walk signal was activated, allowing pedestrians to cross simultaneously across an intersection in any direction.
Stuart Birdseye, a spokesperson for the city of Denton, said that in an all-way crossing situation, all vehicular traffic stops so that pedestrians can safely cross the street. The horizontal crosswalks will still be there. They’ve simply added diagonal crosswalks.
“It is an approach that you see in [other] downtown areas to improve pedestrian safety,” Birdseye said.
Since 2017, several car crashes involving pedestrians had occurred in the Downtown Square area, according to the Denton police. In late September 2017, one occurred on West Hickory, and a few months later, in late January 2018, another occurred on East Oak.
In early September 2019, a Denton police officer’s vehicle struck a pedestrian as the officer turned the corner from North Elm Street to Hickory to respond to a disturbance involving an intoxicated person, the Record-Chronicle reported.
No crashes involving pedestrians have occurred in the Downtown Square area since November 2019, when the pilot program launched, Amy Cunningham, the public information liaison for Denton police, confirmed.
The pilot project was completed in July 2020. Based on those results, Denton City Council green-lit the project for full implementation, approving a professional service agreement with Kimley-Horn and Associations for the “All-Way Crossings Pedestrian Safety Improvements Project.”
CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-220-4299 and via Twitter at @writerontheedge.