Highway 290 has been a motorist’s worst nightmare for seemingly an eternity. And while the city has taken steps to remedy congestion, one current alternative has some neighborhood residents thinking another should be in order.
As Thomas Jackson sees and hears a constant stream of vehicles flying down the streets in Oak Forest Section 17 just off the 290 feeder to shave time off their commute to 43rd Street, he and others cannot help but be annoyed as a shift in freeway exits has disrupted the peace of the neighborhood.
In the past,the exit for 43rd Street would drop drivers off past Berendo. However, after seeing traffic back up on 290 all the way to Antoine due to such an arrangement, officials switched the exits to avoid that problem. Now, the exit for 43rd is set up near Chantilly, moved farther away from 43rd Street and closer to Antoine, in order to improve mobility on both the US 290 outbound mainlanes and frontage road according to TxDOT.
“This refers to the movement of exits farther back from major cross streets to prevent traffic from backing up onto the mainlanes, as well as providing exiting motorists more time and space to make their movements,” spokesperson Karen Othon said of the “ramp reversal.”
However, now that the exit is back by Chantilly, Jackson said motorists are exiting the freeway onto the frontage road (north) and turning right on Hewitt (northeast) before flying down Bethel (back to the northwest) to get to 43rd and avoid that light. If not that route, he says they’re taking Hewitt all the way to Antoine.
Overall, Jackson says the change has brought an inordinate and unprecedented volume of traffic into Section 17, specifically on Hewitt, Bethel, Berendo and Hill Oak.
“If traffic ever gets backed up, there will just be a constant stream of cars turning one after the other,” he said. “While I understand the reason for moving the exit, I don’t believe the ramifications to the neighborhood’s resident’s quality of life and safety was adequately studied.”
City officials informed him that such a study was outside their parameters, and in TxDOT’s wheelhouse. However, Public Works Director Jeffrey Weatherford also told Jackson he could begin a petition to have amendments made with regards to closing off neighborhood streets as part of the city’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Program – though he was unable to specify exactly what action would be taken.
Othon echoed the same, but added evaluation of potential impacts to residents in the corridor has been a priority of the program from its beginning.
“Our program’s Environmental Impact Statement was the result of a process which included multiple opportunities for public input, in accordance with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations and related guidance,” she said.
She said the environmental study process included public meetings in 2004 and 2005, Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) public hearings in 2007, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) made available for public review in 2010 and Final FHWA approval received through a Record of Decision (ROD) in August 2010.
However Othon was unable to respond to a follow-up email about any recent studies based the changing neighborhood as of press time.
Jackson has taken on what seems like an enormous undertaking. However, he remained determined to do the dirty work necessary to effect change he believes will result in a higher quality of life for his neighborhood.
“Everyone I’ve reached out to agreed that the traffic, but of course nobody agrees on what needs to be done, and nobody else is volunteering to do anything about it,” he said. “I’m on kind of on a one-man quest right now.”