Denton city staff presented new priorities for the city’s bike routes this week, after one neighborhood told the city that residents didn’t want bike lanes in their area.
The new priority list put three projects on top of the city’s to-do list for the coming year: a route along Windsor Drive; another along Oak and Hickory streets; and another from the downtown train station to the University of North Texas. Jim Coulter, who is in charge of city streets, told the City Council during a work session this week that a fourth project — a route from the train station to Texas Woman’s University — has not been identified yet.
“The east side of campus is going through some significant changes,” Coulter said, adding that the city will even wait to rebuild Schmitz Road — part of the city’s proposed $20.4 million street reconstruction bond — until the staff knows more of TWU’s plans.
The city adopted a bike plan in February that identified 35 miles of bike routes and dedicated bike lanes that could be completed fairly soon, with another 35 miles of routes and lanes that could be completed over the next 10 years. All 70 miles of improvements were estimated to cost $2.6 million.
A previous priority project — a planned route of shared roadway and side paths along Pennsylvania Avenue in southern Denton — did not have the support of the neighborhood, Coulter said. Because city officials had planned to pay for some of those improvements with Precinct 1 county road funds, the city negotiated for the change from the south side of the city to the north side, Coulter said.
On the city’s north side, the bike plan for Windsor Drive shows a route of side paths, bike lanes and wide curb lanes from Bonnie Brae on the west side, through North Lakes Park, to Old North Road on the east side.
The City Council agreed with the new projects that will be vetted through the city’s Traffic Safety Commission, which is appointed by the council.
But council members expressed concern with the fitful progress in implementing the plan.
Council member Dalton Gregory asked what kind of measure of progress the council could have, given that the city has identified 70 miles for the next 10 years.
“That’s seven miles a year,” Gregory said. “Have we gotten any new miles on the street this year?”
Coulter said there may be a better measure of performance than adding seven miles per year, especially when the city considers that two large-scale projects — the widening of Mayhill Road and Bonnie Brae — in the works and how many new miles of bike routes that will bring. Both major thoroughfares include bike routes.
Both Gregory and council member Kevin Roden shared concerns over the small budget for bike lanes in light of how the city pays its way on such projects. For example, Gregory was concerned that the budget for bike lanes would be charged by the city’s engineering department for its services in designing the lanes.
Similarly, Roden said he was concerned about spending $35,000 to determine whether Hickory and Oak streets should be deemed “commercial collector routes” prior to designating bike lanes for those routes.
“We need to be mindful of the small budget for this,” Roden said, citing the possibility of those funds going to streets that ultimately won’t support bike lanes.
When the City Council adopted the plan, members did not dedicate any bond funds, and instead have taken a pay-as-you-go approach.
“We know that money is for bike lanes and paint wherever we can,” Coulter said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is email@example.com .