Kyle revamps its plan for sidewalks near schools

Work along FM 2770, FM 150 scheduled for September 2013

When the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded the City of Kyle $3.87 million in mobility funds in 2011, officials had proposed using $770,400 of that money toward construction of 3.4 miles of bicycle lanes and sidewalks along FM 2770 and FM 150.

After City Engineer Steven Widacki joined the staff in February and looked at the plans, he said he realized the original proposal would cost two to five times as much as the funds would allow.

The original proposal did not account for contractor mobilization, excavation, disposal of excess material, slope stabilization, erosion control and the five creek crossings the project would have involved, Widacki said.

"At any of those creek crossings, that's a lot of dollars associated with each one of those, so [the added expense] is going to be in the multiples of tens of thousands of dollars," he said.

Widacki sent a letter to the CAMPO board Aug. 2 requesting a revision to the project's scope. The new plan will install sidewalks and bike lanes along a 1-mile stretch of FM 2770 from Hays High School to Fairway Drive and along a 0.6-mile stretch of FM 150 from Center Street to Silverado Drive. He estimated that the construction would begin after September 2013.

A new plan

CAMPO Assistant Director Bubba Needham said the board reviewed the new plan and did not hesitate to approve it.

"Obviously we like for people to move forward with what was originally selected, but understanding that when you're originally submitting a project that you may be doing some planning-level estimates and may not have gotten into any design yet there really wasn't any hesitancy on the part of the board to approve that," Needham said.

Widacki submitted a revised request for qualifications to the Texas Department of Transportation in October and said the city planned to begin its search for a contractor in mid-November.

The decision to pursue the project was ultimately made by the county, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said when officials considered the residential developments and schools in the area, the selection of how to use the funds became obvious.

Jones said he did not recall any other sidewalk projects being discussed when the county was making its selections.

Student safety

The area that will be served by the sidewalks includes four schools with total enrollment of 4,002 students, according to Hays CISD spokesman Tim Savoy, who said the project will greatly improve safety for students who walk to school along FM 2770 and FM 150.

"It is a high-traffic area for our students and four of our campuses—Hays High School, Live Oak Academy, Barton Middle School and Wallace Middle School," Savoy said. "But it's also a high foot-traffic area for people who sometimes park at those campuses and walk to Shelton Stadium. From a safety standpoint, it's going to be a tremendous aspect on improving safety."

The project will also serve four neighborhoods, including Plum Creek, which has about 1,600 homes plus more being built.

Kristi Morrison, Plum Creek Homeowner's Association manager, drives her son to school every day, but she said that on the short ride, she sees the roadway's dangers.

"I see a lot of kids who walk on the street, and it's very dangerous for them," Morrison said. "There are no side streets they can walk on, and otherwise they're walking in the deep grass, and there are snakes."

Kyle Planning Director Sofia Nelson said the city's comprehensive master plan and new overlay district development standards aim to address this issue with regulations for everything from parking lot layout to landscaping to building forms for new commercial developments.

"As new development comes in, [sidewalk installation] may be incremental," Nelson said. "We may get a sidewalk that starts and stops and then is not connected yet, but the idea is that as more properties adjacent to it are developed, they are also required to put those in. Eventually there will be a cohesive sidewalk connection plan."

Pedestrian routes

Kyle resident Philip Reed lives near the intersection of Lehman and Goforth roads. Reed said he believes the city's next sidewalk project should focus on this area.

"I've had school buses swerve at me and honk because they're mad that I'm walking on the side of the road there, but where else am I going to walk?" he said.

Nelson said the city is waiting for funding to become available before it can begin working on more pedestrian problem areas.

"We need to make a priority of pedestrian routes," she said. "As much as we prioritize automobile routes, we need to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle routes as well."