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In Dallas, construction detours turn driving into an absurdity

We get it. Dallas is a growing city. Improvements and maintenance are part of the deal. What we can’t abide, though, is the chaos of construction projects.

Downtown has become an urban maze of closed streets and sidewalks, odd detours and makeshift crosswalks that befuddle drivers and pedestrians. Whoever first coined the expression, “you can’t get there from here”  must have had the central business district in mind.

Joking aside, city and private construction crews haven’t done a very good job of making repairs and improvements without excessively interrupting everyday commerce. City code requires contractors to maintain accessible walkways or pedestrian detours during construction. Too many contractors fail to do this, and after they have completed the job, fail to remove traffic barricades in a timely fashion. In truly byzantine fashion, detours from one project can end up detouring into other projects.  

Between August and mid-March, city public works officials issued 314 citations to contractors for violations committed while working in the right-of-way. The most common violations  involve an improperly closed-off street or sidewalk, and have become so prevalent that city staff is considering asking the city council to hike fines, which generally cap at $500 per violation, per day, for repeat offenders.

What might be more effective on city contracts is to hold a contractor’s record of bad behavior against them during their future bids. And in the case of private construction projects, the city could do a better job of outing code violators to the companies that hire them in the hope that gets action from the folks who are paying the bill.              

There is no easy way to rebuild in a crowded urban area without causing some inconvenience.  This year, parts of about 20 streets in the central business district are either under repair or set to be repaired, meaning the chaos isn’t likely to let up anytime soon.          

We do know that if a contractor working on our house blocked all doors, forcing us to climb in through a window, or failed to clean up their mess, we would be outraged. We certainly wouldn’t call them again to bid on the kitchen remodel.    

No one likes the hassle of construction. But if you’re going to block a street or sidewalk, be quick about it and have an eye on keeping us all moving.

This editorial was written by the editorial board and serves as the voice and opinion of The Dallas Morning News.

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