It is heartening to know a 90-day study of the effects of stop signs rather than traffic lights around the plaza are in the works as a result of a Paris Traffic Commission recommendation last week after a meeting of the commission, Paris Main Street Board and Paris City Council. City Council is expected to give approval at an Oct. 25 meeting.
The 90-day trial, expected to begin Nov. 15 and run into February, will give information both about traffic during the busy holiday season as well as during more normal time periods.
Downtown has seen a surge in new businesses in recent years, and it is encouraging to know Texas Department of Public Transportation has agreed to the 90-day trial to study what effects stop signs rather than traffic lights will have on downtown traffic, a first step toward moving to two-way traffic as proposed by a Toole Design Group plan for downtown development adopted by the city in 2018.
Last week’s joint meeting, shared on Zoom and broadcast on the city’s Facebook site, gave stakeholders the opportunity to share concerns about and express support for traffic flow changes. Primary concerns centered around the zig-zag traffic flow already in place, about the safety of both pedestrians and motorists navigating the area without traffic signals and about increased traffic on other city streets caused by downtown changes.
While I agree, concerns expressed by mostly traffic commission members are valid, concerns about an increase in traffic accidents should be minimized by the reduction of speed approaching the plaza. A slower flow will result in less difficulty navigating the zig-zag patterns entering it, which also are meant to slow traffic and provide more parking around the plaza.
It warmed my heart to hear supporters passionately plead for the continued implementation of the Toole Design Group plan, in which the city and downtown supporters invested $90,000 in an effort to make downtown Paris pedestrian friendly and attractive for residents and tourists alike.
“I was thrilled when the Toole Group came in,” 50-year-resident Suzy Harper said about the group that changed Chattanooga, Tennessee, Richmond, Virginia, Sulphur Springs and McKinney. “People leave Paris and go to have fun in both those cities.”
Not only is downtown Paris unsafe for pedestrians, but it’s bad for downtown businesses, Harper continued, adding, “It keeps us from being the destination town that is really the hope for this community.”
The 90-day study received wholehearted support from Paris City Council members in attendance, an indication of probable upcoming council approval.
“I can’t tell you what a strong advocate of this I am,” downtown resident and Councilor Linda Knox said. Acknowledging that traffic will decrease when it is slowed, Knox added, “Maybe we’re going to get the kind of traffic that sticks around downtown Paris, that comes downtown for the purpose of spending time and enjoying downtown, like me.”
Councilor Renae Stone shared about a recent trip to downtown Plano where she and her sisters spent a Saturday afternoon.
“Although everybody is in a hurry in the big city, in the downtown area where we went there were no traffic lights, people were walking around everywhere like ants and the traffic was slow,” Stone said. “People were enjoying going in and out of stores. I know we are in Paris and not in Plano, but the concept is the same.”
Mayor Paula Portugal said she is 100% convinced that stop signs will make downtown safer.
“We need to support our merchants and restaurants and have a downtown where residents and visitors can come and feel safe, and like Mrs. Stone said, ‘have a good time.’”
Both councilors Mihir Pankaj and Mayor Pro-Tem Reginald Hughes expressed appreciation for the collaborative effort shown by traffic commission and Main Street board members in hosting a joint meeting so that council members and community members could hear both sides of the issue.
“Thank you, I love this,” Pankaj said. “I love this collaborative effort. This is commendable, and we need more of this.”
I agree. We need more opportunities for community input, and we need this 90-day traffic study to see if stop signs rather than traffic signals result in a safer, more pedestrian friendly downtown.