The city of Plano is pitching its most intensive road and park investments in decades as infrastructure that was installed during the city’s first true growth spurt continues to age.
The projects would be funded by more than $224 million in proposed bonds that Plano voters will consider on the May 6 ballot. The largest shares of the proposed funding would go toward street projects—some expensive and prone to traffic disruptions—and improvements to the city’s sprawling parks system.
The city built much of this infrastructure during its population boom in the 1970s and 1980s, when more than 100,000 people flocked to Plano and corporations like J.C. Penney moved their headquarters to the city.
“You factor in the age of these roads and then you factor in the increased traffic,” Plano Director of Engineering Caleb Thornhill said. “As the years have gone on, these roadways have seen a large increase in traffic from the growth in Plano, but also the surrounding communities.”
Now, that aging infrastructure is in need of continued maintenance and, in some places, expensive reconstruction, Thornhill said. The city has set aside more than one-third of the proposed $90 million in street project bonds for tearing apart and rebuilding portions of the city’s major arterial roadways, particularly along the city’s older southern corridor.
“This will be a first wave” of street reconstruction, Thornhill said, “and more than likely it will be smaller sections of some of these large arterials in strategic locations—locations where we’ve had multiple issues.”
Despite the size of the total bond referendum, the city’s budget and research department said the city’s property tax rate would increase 0.43 cents per $100 valuation beginning in the 2020-21 fiscal year. The projected rate change is expected to account for a less than $13 increase per year for the average home as city revenues swell and much of Plano’s previously issued debt comes off the books, city Budget Director Karen Rhodes-Whitley said.
The $90 million requested by the city for road projects this year is higher than any Plano bond request in the past two decades. The last city bond referendum in 2013 called for less than $44 million in bonds for street repairs; in 2009, that number was less than $35 million.
“There’s no anticipated [financial] participation from outside the city of Plano” for road projects, city budget analyst Matt Yager said.
Even though a substantial portion of the roads package would go toward street reconstruction, Thornhill said the expensive process will almost certainly require additional investment in future bond packages.
“I don’t know that I feel comfortable saying … that we’re going to start replacing all the arterials, because just from an impact standpoint, it’s going to be almost impossible,” Thornhill said of the costs and traffic disruptions associated with these projects. “I just know there’s a lot of these arterial concrete roadways that are in disrepair that are going to have to be addressed in the next four years, and probably the next 10 to 15, or so on.”
Parks and facilities
Likewise, voters will consider funding upgrades to the city’s parks system totaling almost $79 million—a number nearly triple the 2013 parks bond and 36 percent higher than any parks authority proposed since 1995.
The parks package includes targeted projects to specific parks and other facilities. The largest such project, a second phase of substantial renovations to 1980s-era Carpenter Park, would optimize sports fields for league and tournament play and revamp infrastructure such as lighting and irrigation systems.
The park proposition, if approved by voters, would include $18 million in bonds for land acquisitions “to meet needs in underserved areas,” according to a document prepared by city staff.
A separate bond proposition on the May ballot would expand the Davis and Harrington libraries—projects totaling $5 million each. Another proposition would fund the construction of a $15 million training center for Plano Fire-Rescue and a $12 million police substation in northwest Plano.
More than $12 million in recreation center upgrades and a $3.5 million restoration of the Collinwood House will also be submitted to the voters.