Motorists in the last few days may have noticed that some of the signal lights that for decades have regulated intersections on Dumas Avenue are now blinking yellow for vehicles heading north or south on the avenue and blinking red for traffic heading east and west on 5th, 6th, and 8th Streets. According to Dumas City Manager Arbie Taylor, the Texas Department of Transportation has begun a process that will ultimately lead to the removal of the signal lights from all but four intersections on Dumas Avenue.
Taylor says the three lights targeted for removal (5th, 6th, and 8th Streets) will blink for about a month. TxDOT engineers will study the reaction of traffic during that period. If they feel the reaction is positive, they will turn off the lights completely for a period of time during which they will accept public comments and further study the reactions of motorists. If the results are still positive, they will remove the lights completely. Initially, the light at 4th Street was also planned for removal, but Dumas Independent School District officials requested that it remain for the safety of Dumas High School students who use that intersection to go to the Sonic Drive In for lunch during school days.
The removal of the lights is taking place in conjunction with the project to resurface Dumas Avenue that TxDOT plans to begin sometime in the coming months. Two years ago, as part of the planning for the project, TxDOT conducted a so-called "traffic warrant analysis" of Dumas Avenue and determined that the only intersections that met the standard for having a signal light were those at 1st, 7th, and 14th Streets. TxDOT officials say that removing the other lights will relieve congestion and enhance traffic flow on the avenue.
Other work is being done in preparation for the resurfacing as well. According to Taylor, the City of Dumas should be finished with the process of moving city utility lines from under Dumas Avenue by late May or June at the latest. He says they should be finished with the downtown area in time for the Dogie Days parade. TxDOT required the city to move the lines -- many of which date back to the 1930's -- before the resurfacing could begin in order to keep the lines from being damaged by the construction. For the last several months, workers have been boring new lines for water and other utilities in the downtown area. Taylor says that once that work is finished, TxDOT will begin contracting for the resurfacing job. "The chances are that they will not turn a blade of dirt before this time next year, and it will probably be a little later, sometime in late winter or early spring of next year is when they will start construction," said Taylor. "That is my speculative time frame. They may bump that up some, if they can, possibly, but from what we are hearing … they want to wait at least four to six months after we have completed our project, because they will do an audit to make sure that we have done everything we were supposed to do and gotten completely out of the way."
Another project that Taylor says must be completed before the resurfacing can begin is the replacement by Xcel Energy of the street lights on Dumas Avenue with new LED lights. The work has not begun, and Taylor says that neither he nor Dumas Mayor Bob Brinkmann have been able to find out how Xcel plans to proceed, nor have they been given a timeline for the project. TxDOT officials are requiring that the job be completed before they begin the resurfacing. "I do not know," said Taylor. "That might be the hold up more than us … on TxDOT's deal getting started … getting all the electrical stuff taken care of."