Donna Fielder: Fat bumps get probe

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There has been a development on Hickory Street at Carroll Boulevard. Something of import has happened, and I don’t know why. What’s more, I’m afraid to ask.

You know that sort of elbow thing sticking out in the right-hand lane in front of the Carroll Building? The one that has no apparent reason for being? The one you either run over or narrowly avoid every time you cross Car­roll eastbound and forget your lane has turned into a right-turn-only lane at just that spot and then takes back up as a driving lane after the bump?

Sorry, no. The bump has not disappeared. Instead it is now encircled in red so it looks somewhat like an inflamed concrete pimple.

I first discovered the bump in November 2008 as I was cruising down Hickory Street while headed to Rooster’s for a green tomato bacon burger.

I was in the right lane crossing Carroll Boulevard and bam! There was no right lane. Instead, there was this big round curb jutting into Hickory and a matching one in the far left lane.

That put me in an awkward — not to mention illegal — position. I didn’t want to turn right onto Carroll. I wanted to go straight, but I only had a third of a lane to do it. I tried to squeeze into the middle lane mid-boulevard, but I was in competition with a beer truck and a beat-up old Fair­lane. One was bigger and the other had nothing to lose. I turned right.

What the heck was that? I wondered, so I made the block for another look. That’s when I saw a small sign that told me if I was in the right lane, I had to turn right. When did that happen and why?

I tried that intersection several times, coming in from the south, the north and once from the third floor of the Carroll Building. No matter which way I drove, those new fat round bumps sticking out into the street from the sidewalks just didn’t make sense.

But hey, this is Denton. This is the city that added a roundabout for easier access to the east dead end of Teasley Lane. It’s home to Loop 288 — not actually a loop at all. It’s the town that offers 27 blocks of Hickory Street — a main artery crossing the University of North Texas and the Square that changes from two-way to one-way and back again five times between the interstate and the courthouse parking lot.

I called the city and reached a traffic engineer. The conversation went like this:

“About that bump ...”

“We were very short on right of way there,” the engineer explained.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what that means,” I replied.

“Do you know what a plat looks like? Do you know about right of way?”

Generally, I do. But I couldn’t figure out what that had to do with fat round bumps jutting into the street.

“We couldn’t obstruct the sidewalk with new poles for signals,” he explained.

They obstructed the street so as not to obstruct the sidewalk. OK.

So where were the poles before? Well, they had been in the Carroll Boulevard median, he explained. And why couldn’t they stay in the median?

“Any time you improve a situation, you have to be [Americans With Disabilities Act] compliant. We have to have push buttons and poles to put push buttons on. The sidewalks and ramps could not be properly placed. We had to have the bump-outs for the ADA ramps.”

I was a little dizzy by this point.

“Does it seem to you like that thinking is a little circular?” I asked.

He didn’t know what I meant.

So they obstructed two lanes of traffic, squeezing three lanes to one at a major inter­section, to make room for ramps. They had to put the ramps in because they moved the poles. They moved the poles so they could put pedestrian buttons on them, which were necessary because of the new ramps.

“So why did you start this project to begin with?”

The poles in the median were getting sort of elderly, he said, and needed replacing.

“And why couldn’t you put the new ones back in the …” Never mind. I took Dram­amine and cruised the roundabout until I calmed down.

When I drove past the Carroll Building recently, I noticed that the left-lane bump had a utility pole. The right-lane bump had no pole, no handicap ramp. They were on the sidewalk. But a sort of shoulder had been constructed around the right bump and sprayed barn red. If you hit it at just the right angle and with enough speed, you can take flight, clear the Courthouse on the Square, sail over restaurant row on East Hickory and land in the Justice Center parking lot, avoiding three red lights in the process. It’s about emissions control. Those crafty engineers knew what they were doing all along.

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is  

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