TRAFFIC JAM: NO MOVEMENT ON CENTRAL

It’s no fun being the aggra-vator of sore subjects. But when it comes to the subject of North Central Expressway, it seems that no amount of complaining is enough. So here we go again.

The severity of the problem was distressingly reillustrated recently. The only rehabilitation project actually in the works for the decrepit highway is the proposed continuous extension of the service road through the Northwest Highway interchange area. But the State Highway Department has now informed the Dallas City Council that, despite the fact that the needed funds are at the ready, construction will not begin until January of 1980. Why? There are four landowners whose property must be purchased. The Highway Department, in its explanation to the Council, implied it would require some two years to notify land owners, allow them to make relocation plans, negotiate, and purchase. Some Council members think it can be done in a matter of months. “The Highway Department seems to treat it as a matter of courtesy.” says Councilman Steve Bartlett. “A that’s-the-way-we-do-things attitude. This is no time for courtesy.”

At any rate, the service road project is a piecemeal effort. The highway needs dramatic aid. Each of the three major proposed solutions has problems.

# 1. A northeast Dallas Toll-way. Major problem: land acquisition. Property owners in Lakewood and East Dallas have no inherent interest in such a road cutting through their neighborhood. They are only 10 to 12 minutes from downtown as is and would have no use for it.

#2. Widening the existing highway by one extra lane in each direction. Major problem: The $80-million project would require 90 percent federal funding. The federal bureaucracy according to Council estimates, could not even make funding approval before 1983.

#3. Transformation of the existing paralleling railroad bed into a 28-foot wide roadway, one lane each way, for buses only. The system would fan out at various exitways for delivery to neighborhood stations. Major problem: getting started. There appears to be more Council sentiment for this proposal than the others. But the $50-million project needs immediate action, as in bond revenues. Unfortunately, despite increased Council interest, particularly from Bartlett and Dick Smith, the commitment is not yet there. You have to wonder, how bad does that highway have to get?

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