Wednesday, December 11, 2019

City Continues to Prioritize Providing Pedestrian Pathways

At the most recent November 19 City Council Meeting, Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher reaffirmed the City’s commitment to improving mobility in Southlake is not just on roadways but sidewalks too.

“Mobility and infrastructure are key focuses for us, we want to provide travel convenience within the City,” Thatcher commented during his presentation. “That’s not only in road construction but also in sidewalk construction. It’s very much in the forefront of our budget and resource allocation.”

In the last couple Citizen Satisfaction Surveys, respondents indicated that pedestrian pathways were very or somewhat important, while only little more than half of the respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the City’s efforts to provide them.

“We understand that it’s an important service that the City provides to our residents,” noted Thatcher. “We have an annual appropriation of budget funds that go towards capital projects for filling in the gaps in our sidewalk network. We continue to put money aside.”

“In the last 5 years we’ve spent just under $1.3 million retrofitting and filling in the gaps in our sidewalk network,” said Thatcher.

And in the past 10 years, the City has added more than 21 miles of sidewalks. Thatcher encouraged residents to visit the sidewalk pages on the City’s website and check out the interactive sidewalk map. The map shows the current sidewalk network, future sidewalk segment, and hiking and equestrian trails. It also allows you to search by the address and gives the history of the segment at the bottom of the map.

During the presentation, Thatcher also talked about the sidewalk construction barriers the City faces. The most common barriers include the right of way acquisition, topography, utility relocation, tree removal and damage to existing structures. Right of way acquisitions challenges are the most likely to prevent a project from moving forward and can outweigh all other factors.

“Sometimes we don’t have the property so we have to go out and acquire it just like on a road project,” noted Thatcher. He also spoke about how what appears to be a simple sidewalk project on the surface can run into its challenges. “Because of the grade changes, ADA requirements, all of a sudden a simple sidewalk project becomes something that needs to be engineered to a great deal,” he said.

The City utilizes several different funding sources to help build sidewalks. Those sources include:

  • CIP Funding, where the City can retrofit projects along roads, or as part of a larger project, such as the reconstruction of N. White Chapel;
  • Developer Agreements where the City works with developers to incorporate sidewalks into their developments;
  • Local State and Federal Grants, these are typically administered by Tarrant County, NCTCOG and TxDOT,
  • and Neighborhood Sidewalk Matching Funds Program

Finally, Thatcher discussed current active projects. The most noticeable project is the N. White Chapel Widening project currently under construction. New sidewalks were incorporated into this project and when completed will provide sidewalk connectivity on N. White Chapel from FM 1709 to SH 114.

Also under construction is the Continental Boulevard sidewalk project. This is between South Hollow Drive and Crooked Lane on the north side of the road. Construction is anticipated to begin in late spring for sidewalks on Kirkwood Boulevard from TW King to Tyler Street both sides of the road. This project is currently in the design phase. And new sidewalks on FM 1709, near the south side of The Hill Church, have their design under review.

Thatcher also encouraged anyone with sidewalk questions to visit the ConnectSouthlake.com website and view the sidewalk pages or to contact the Sidewalk Program Manager Stephanie Taylor, Transportation Manager in the Traffic Management Division.