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Longview mayor pushes citywide sidewalks

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 27, 2014 at 11 p.m.

Longview Mayor Jay Dean began a new push for a walker-friendly city Thursday, spring-boarding from a presentation about an ongoing pedestrian study.

"I would recommend to council that we have a discussion about the entire city of Longview … we really need to consider a citywide program … and in doing so look at a long-term project to where we can associate funding to pay," Dean said.

His statement came after Brooke Droptini presented the preliminary findings of the Pedestrian Transit Access Plan to the council. Droptini is the plan manager.

The effort is an ongoing effort approved by the Longview City Council in June to determine if walkers on three major corridors can safely get to Longview Transit bus stops.

The City Council unanimously approved a $102,653 contract with Freese and Nichols for the development of the plan. Droptini works in the Fort Worth-based organization's Tyler offices.

"This has been a subject about pedestrian sidewalks in our community for quite some time, and Longview is historically a community that was developed through acquiring and annexing. Some of the way properties were building the annexed area did not require sidewalks or even infrastructure that is comparable even close to what we do today," Dean said.

Droptini presented the plan, which includes 14 projects along Fourth Street, Mobberly Avenue and Cotton Street and repairs to existing sidewalks that would cost about $2.5 million. She also told council members about possible ways to pay for the work, including a bond, general fund leftovers or capital improvement funds.

The plan was formed through input from residents and conversations with the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Public Transportation Advisory Committee.

Dean suggested the city begin working on a plan to address sidewalks throughout the community, adding that much of the work would be finished after he completed his final term on the council in May 2015.

"In the next 90 days, before we even start the budget process for this year, I would like to see staff start putting together a project to address the entire city … Let's look at a city wide project where we can really take a big bite of this and get this done," he said.

He added that there could be a host of funding options.

… there may be other bond elections for additional projects that we could include some sidewalks in like we did in the 2011 bond election, but we would have to consider long-term funding sources," he said.

District 3 Councilwoman Kasha Williams encouraged the city to first consider the findings of the study and address high-need areas.

"It would also be great to see them where they are most needed," Williams said.

District 5 Councilman Richard Manley said sidewalks are a need throughout the community.

"At least in the south side of town we have some sidewalks - though they might be broken up. But up on our end of town, mayor, we ain't got no sidewalks. There is a need all over town, and I am glad we are talking about this," he said. "It is something really important to me, and I would like to see sidewalks in every neighborhood in this city at some point in time."

The question of sidewalks came at the same meeting where the City Council voted unanimously to allow the use of eminent domain to secure property for the extension of Fourth Street north of Hawkins Parkway, a plan which does not include sidewalks.

Director of Public Works Keith Bonds told council members that they had attempted to negotiate with the property owner for the 0.1235 acres of land, appraised at $53,537.

In order to avoid the property completely, the city would have to build the extension over a flood plain and construct a bridge for about $2.3 million or connect the road further west on Hawkins Parkway, which could cause traffic concerns, Bonds said.



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