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Residents want West Alabama put back the way it was

According to the Examiner, folks living near West Alabama want their old street back. You may recall that back in 2003 when Spur 527 was taken offline for construction, changes were made to Alabama to help it serve as an alternate route into downtown. Now that the spur is open again, some residents want those changes unmade.

The street originally had one primary lane going in each direction, with a middle turning lane and designated bicycle lanes on either side.

With the new plan, new traffic signals were installed along the corridor, turning the central lane into a reversible contraflow lane. The bicycle lanes were removed, and new ones were designated along Fairview Drive.

For residents in the neighborhoods through which West Alabama runs, perhaps the most noticeable changes were new signals and signs prohibiting left turns onto and off of the street, and prohibiting right turns on red lights. Longtime residents had to devise new ways to navigate to and from their homes.


Neil McKenna, a five-year resident of the 1700 block of Harold Lane, said that before the changes, West Alabama had a much more “residential” character.

“It was quieter, there were more pedestrians,” said McKenna, a research scientist who works in the Texas Medical Center. A bicyclist, McKenna also bemoans the removal of West Alabama’s bicycle lanes.

Both McKenna and Ray Jones, the founder of the West Alabama Quality of Life Coalition, say they heard officials say during a hearing in the federal proceeding prior to the spur reconstruction project that once it was completed, West Alabama would be restored to its original configuration.

District D Councilwoman Ada Edwards, who had only recently taken office when the spur project began, said she doesn’t specifically recall who may have said that the street would be returned to its original status, but that was her understanding of what would happen.

However, Wes Johnson, spokesman for the city’s Public Works Department, said that commitment was never made.

In any event, McKenna and Jones say it’s time for the street to be changed back.

“As a local resident, it’s an issue of great concern,” McKenna said. “The city needs to act on it.”

Regardless of what may or may not have been promised, I think McKenna and Jones have a valid complaint here. At the very least, they deserve an explanation for why Alabama’s configuration has not been changed back yet, and what timeline there may be for doing so. I have a feeling that if this matter is still unresolved in a few months, it will become a campaign issue for Edwards’ soon to be open Council seat.

There is, however, another issue involved:

[S]ince the spur project controversy has come and gone, Johnson said, a new element has entered the picture — METRO’s plans to build the University Line light rail line. For months, METRO officials, residents and politicians have wrangled over where the line will go, including along Richmond Avenue, a few blocks from West Alabama.

Johnson said the traffic management plan that resulted in West Alabama’s reconfiguration cost the city about $1 million. He said it would not be prudent to restore the original configuration of the street before a final decision on the rail line.

Edwards, however, said she would like to see West Alabama’s restored.

“This is what the community wants,” she said.

We know there are three possible routes that would affect this area; two of them run on Richmond through at least Edloe, the other is the Culberson option that cuts over at Montrose. It’s the only one that won’t attract Culberson’s opposition, but it’s also the most expensive and least effective route, and it will attract other opposition. Regardless of that, it will be awhile before Metro makes its choice, and awhile after that before we know whether the alignment they choose will actually get funded and built.

Having said that, we ought to have a pretty good idea by now what Metro has in mind to do to alleviate the construction woes on Richmond for the event that it needs them. Surely Metro will tout its amelioration plans (and likely already has been touting them) as part of its push to get whatever route it chooses completed. So how about all stakeholders here get together with Metro and talk about what Metro foresees as the impact of its possible future construction will be on Alabama? Maybe you’ll find that they think it won’t be so bad, just as the spur construction turned out to have less impact on the surface roads than people expected. Wouldn’t that make more sense than waiting till all the pieces are in place, however many months from now that is?

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