Dozens of League City residents voiced their opposition to a proposed extension of East Walker Street during a Nov. 17 public meeting, reinforcing the feedback city officials said they have gotten since the inception of the 2019 general obligation bond program.
League City staff held the meeting to gain insight from the public on the proposed $1.5 million project, which would involve constructing an extension of Walker from Texas Avenue east to FM 270 as a two-lane collector road with sidewalks. It is not yet under design, and an engineer has not been hired, city officials said Nov. 17.
City staff acknowledged that Walker has a residential character. Citizens continually expressed during the meeting that neighborhood noise levels, traffic and safety of existing homes would all be compromised by the extension.
“I think what we’re trying to tell you right here is we don’t want this,” said Charles Emmitte, a resident of South Iowa Avenue who has lived in League City for more than 40 years. “It would impact us very much. That’s our little bit of heaven, and you’re going to try to change that.”
The project, part of the city’s 2019 bond, is meant to help with traffic congestion along FM 518, especially during peak times. League City’s 2019 citizen survey identified transportation and drainage projects as the highest concern for community members.
The neighborhood surrounding the Walker extension area is anticipating continued growth, signaling a need for alternate routes and expansions throughout town, which includes improving congestion along FM 518, Director of Engineering Chris Sims said. While in-depth studies will not be conducted unless the project moves forward, he estimated the daily vehicle count would roughly double with this extension; the area in question sees 1,800 vehicles a day right now, he said.
Council Members John Bowen and Andy Mann, along with Sims; City Manager John Baumgartner; and Angie Steelman, executive director of finance and project management, heard comments from citizens over the course of approximately two and a half hours.
“We need the citizens’ input on which way to go,” Sims said. “I understand this is a hated idea.”
Two extension options were proposed: One would end at FM 270 across from Paintbrush Avenue—at the entrance to The Meadows neighborhood—and the other would end at FM 270 across from Abilene Street. A third option, per city staff, would be to not move forward with either extension plan and find alternate uses for the funds.
None of the residents who spoke during the meeting were in favor of the project. Since the city started discussions about the bond and this particular extension, Steelman said she has received 45-50 emails containing feedback. Nearly all were from citizens against the extension.
Concerns identified by citizens with the project to date, she said, include: the safety of existing homes, impacts to the existing walking trail at Walker and Texas Avenue, feasibility of fitting the extension within the given space, additional traffic and noise, and drainage problems. Residents also brought up concerns Nov. 17 over potential city land acquisition to complete the project, which would further alter the neighborhood’s character.
“This project does not call for us to buy anyone’s home,” Steelman said.
Citizens also expressed dissatisfaction during the meeting at the lack of any feasibility or environmental studies around the extension, with some citing concerns about protection of the city’s oak trees. Since this project is still in very early stages, League City City Council will vote on whether to move forward before any more work is put into studies, Baumgartner said.
At some point in the first quarter of 2022, council will hear a presentation from city officials containing findings from the public input, along with city staff’s recommendation about whether to move forward.
Members will put the decision to a vote at a regular meeting or workshop, and those present indicated they are well aware of public opposition.
“I think this is a project that will be easily pulled from the program,” Mayor Pro Tem Hank Dugie said at the meeting’s conclusion, adding he has not heard from a single person in favor of the extension.