East Dallas’ ‘3G’ intersection is a mess, and the fight over its future doesn't need more twists
The “you yield, no, you yield” intersection of Gaston Avenue, Garland Road and Grand Avenue in East Dallas badly needs a makeover.
The so-called 3G intersection should be a gateway into East Dallas’ greatest assets.
But for decades, the outdated tangle of short-cycle lights, confusing traffic signs and bizarre merges has irritated area residents and daily commuters. Fast-moving southbound Garland Road traffic — which can careen around a curve unimpeded onto Gaston — is a frightening hazard.
Nerves of steel are needed to navigate into the parking lots of new retail and restaurants. And good luck to the pedestrians who must cross the road from their bus stop or bikers who want to get to White Rock Lake.
The intersection is a mess, and seemingly everyone who lives around it knows that’s the case. Yet the long public process intended to yield a solution is proving to be as problematic as 3G itself.
I’ve waded through traffic-flow data and intersection schematics, and spent hours listening both to leaders involved in the redo and residents who will be affected. I also have plenty of first-hand experience with 3G: I live in the nearby Hollywood-Santa Monica neighborhood and drive through the intersection almost daily.
Each neighborhood, including mine, is understandably looking out for what’s best for its residents in this renovation. But I’m not influenced by that as much as I am by a simple reality that some people in this contentious debate don’t want to accept: Traffic is going to go where the driver wants to go. Street design is one thing. But the configuration of an intersection won’t force a motorist to change directions.
If you are driving south on Garland Road and you want to get to Interstate 30, you will navigate onto Grand Avenue, even if you have to turn left to do so. If the traffic report tells you I-30 is gridlocked, you’ll take Gaston to get downtown, just like you do now. And if your navigation app says you can get where you need to go most quickly by cutting through residential streets, that’s the direction you’ll head.
So it’s most important that the 3G redo be the one that moves the most traffic — including pedestrians and cyclists — most safely and efficiently through the intersection.
The Texas Department of Transportation, after listening since 2016 to various points of view, believes its “reverse T” plan, or Option 2, will best do that job. TxDOT is leading this project because Garland-Grand is State Highway 78.
The preferred plan includes traffic lights for all directions — finally, everyone has to stop. It’s pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with good crosswalks and landscaping.
The reverse T also requires southbound traffic on Garland Road to make a left turn to continue onto Grand. It’s that required turn — which some residents believe will push more traffic onto Gaston — that has ignited the fight.
The loudest opposition to the reverse T is Lakewood Citizens for Responsible Traffic, a social media-savvy group that hasn’t wavered in its certainty about new traffic on Gaston should the reverse T come to be.
Sarah Lamb told me Tuesday that her group is open to “a true compromise,” which in her opinion starts with making the Garland-Grand connection a straight shot, rather than the current plan’s left-hand turn. In addition to delivering 300 more responses to TxDOT on Wednesday, the final day comments were accepted, Lamb dropped off an anti-Option 2 petition with 665 signatures.
Most recently, in the two weeks between a Nov. 13 public hearing at the Dallas Arboretum and the end of the public comment period, more than 1,000 responses flooded the TxDOT office. The state now must evaluate those comments — a huge response for an intersection project.
Generally, public feedback at this point in a years-long planning process involves a tweak here or an adjustment there. But my guess is that these comments will be more of a referendum on the plan itself. I’m no engineer — and neither is Lamb nor most of the other residents in this debate — but the changes her group is seeking sound much bigger than adjustments to the reverse T.
What happens next on the reverse T, which has a letter of support from the city of Dallas and a tentative 2020 groundbreaking, is anybody’s guess.
Asking people to trust TxDOT is a leap of faith for sure. But starting over doesn’t seem sensible — or fair — given the amount of time and energy this project has already sucked up. Count me with state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, who earlier this month said in support of the reverse T, “Democracy does not mean you always get your way; it means you always get your say.”
Here’s another problem Lamb’s group is up against: Gaston has long been a busy four-lane road. It may be home to many houses, but it’s no more a residential street than Preston Road is. No plan will change that.
The Gaston-based group’s crusade has frustrated many other neighborhoods, who contend that Lamb is trying to hijack the process late in the game. A counter-campaign of “Support Option 2: Keep East Dallas Connected” has been launched by some of the stakeholders involved since the first public meetings in 2016.
The Lakewood Citizens for Responsible Traffic folks counter that the process has been a sham and they got to the table as quickly as they learned what was going on.
It’s a traffic jam of hard feelings, painfully personal accusations and neighborhood-against-neighborhood divides. Adding to the drama is the number of elected leaders involved: The 3G intersection is a spot at which three City Council districts and two state House districts converge.
Maybe someone in a white hat will ride in with a solution that brings people together. Maybe a better way forward will turn up in those 1,000 comments.
But this public process can’t go on forever — the game of chicken played with 2-ton vehicles needs to end.