Downtown stop signs go up; flashing red signals turned off
The flashing red signal lights around the historic downtown Center courthouse square have been turned off as of Friday morning by TxDOT crews.
Earlier in the week stop signs were installed at all four intersections as part of the summer-long transition process of moving from full red, yellow and green traffic signals to flashing red and now stop signs. Earlier in the summer, Texas Department of Transportation workers flipped the signals to flashing red lights requiring motorists to come to a complete stop at each intersection before entering traffic flow on the square.
In mid-July TxDOT officials extended the flashing red mode until at least mid-August while the agency conducted a traffic study of whether or not the signals are still needed or whether they might be replaced with stop signs.
That study was at the request of the City of Center, according to TxDOT spokeswoman Rhonda Oaks.
“We are conducting the traffic study at the request of the city as they plan for the city’s beautification project on the square,” she said.
“At the end of 30 days, our traffic engineers will determine whether the signals are still warranted or if stop signs will work more efficiently for the downtown traffic needs,” Oaks said in July. TxDOT will make a recommendation to the city based on those findings.
City officials said construction on the much-anticipated Center Downtown Streetscape project is set to begin the week of Sept. 2. The $3.9 million project was awarded to The Fain Group who has experience with similar projects in Ennis and Granbury.
“The City Council took the bold step to self-fund this project,” said Center Mayor David Chadwick. “This project is not meant to just make our downtown pretty but to encourage additional investment in the City.”
The construction area will include all public infrastructure from the historic courthouse retaining wall to business storefronts.
Major components of construction include resurfacing of all roadways and parking with adjusted grades to improve surface drainage, reinstalling previous mid-block crosswalks including handicap access and parking stalls, removing the varying grade changes between parking and storefronts, adapting all four intersections to provide safer pedestrian crossings, and transitioning to three way stops.
In addition to traffic components, this project includes beautification of the entire area by replacing all street light fixtures, adding landscaping with irrigation and expanding sidewalks at storefronts and including landings at each intersection.
“We have been fortunate to have assembled a great team for design from White Oak Studios in Houston, the engineering from Everett Griffith in Lufkin, and The Fain Group,” said Center City Manager Chad Nehring.
Construction will be divided into four distinct segments comprised of one intersection and half blocks in each direction.
The initial construction zone will include the intersection of San Augustine and Austin and extend one-half block up each street. Upon substantial completion of that quadrant, construction will proceed clockwise around the square concluding with the Shelbyville Street corner.
After completion of the major roadwork and sidewalks, the landscaping and lighting with be finished. Construction should last approximately three months for each quadrant and be completed near September, 2020.
Detour signage will be placed to assist drivers to avoid the intersection under construction. Existing sidewalk access to all businesses will be available throughout the entirety of the project but adjacent parking will be impacted.
“Once this project is complete, Center will have a beautiful community heart that will rival any other town,” Chadwick said.
For more information, the master plan for the downtown square with detailed renderings of this project can be viewed at the City’s website – www.centertexas.org.