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Board approves Southside ventures

By Sherry Koonce
Oct. 3, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Expanded walking trails and tree-lined streets in the city's Southside are closer to reality now that the Longview Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board is supporting the projects.

At their regular meeting Wednesday, MPO board members approved the projects nominated for grant funding from the Texas Department of Transportation's 2012 Transportation Enhancement Program.

The federally funded program provides opportunities for non-traditional transportation-related activities.

Karen Owen, transportation manager, said $70 million is available for projects such as facilities for pedestrians and bicycles, landscaping or beautification.

"These projects go above and beyond that," Owen said, adding that the trails are heavily used by the city of Longview.

Phase 3 of the Paul Boorman Walking Trail would extend the trail by 8/10 of a mile, from U.S. 80 north through Towne Lake to Spur 63 at McCann Road, where there is an existing trail at Guthrie Park.

The Parks and Recreation Department board members have approved the extension project for the funding request, but needed the MPO board's approval in order to proceed.

If funded, this will be the third extension of the trail.

Phase 1 construction totaled $1.6 million. Of that, $1.276 million was funded by a TxDOT grant.

Phase 2, at $3.149 million was part of the 2007 Capital Improvements bond.

Phase 3 is in the preliminary stages, and cost has not been determined, said Laura Hill, director of community development.

The second project approved by the MPO would provide a face-lift along Estes Parkway, in the city's Southside.

Kasha Williams, Longview District 3 councilwoman, is leading the charge to beautify the area with planted trees lining the road from Estes Parkway to Mobberly Avenue, past LeTourneau to the Amtrack depot.

"I feel like the project is moving forward. This is a project that will require an investment in our community. We welcome any type of funding we can secure for a project of this magnitude," Williams said.

There are challenges to the project, said Chuck Ewings, assistant city manager.

Ewings said the city is in the process of identifying conflicts - such as utility and overhead power lines - and cost estimates are being developed.

Both projects are expected to be presented to the City Council for approval before Nov. 16, the last day TxDOT will accept nominations for projects.

For the first time this year, entities are required to pay a 20 percent match, Owen said.

The MPO's role is to draft a letter of support for the projects. The MPO board's support does not commit the city to either of the projects.



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