Council OKs streetscape proposal

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Back-in parking planned on East Hickory Street

Drivers hunting for a parking spot along East Hickory Street may find some relief after the streetscape is rebuilt, but they will need to be ready for another new element in the fast-changing area:

Back-in parking.

During its workshop session Tuesday afternoon, the Denton City Council agreed with a proposed design that has drivers backing into angled parking spaces on East Hickory Street between Locust Street and Bell Avenue.

The design change provides for the most possible parking spaces in an increasingly congested area. The streetscape change includes closing the right-turn lane at Bell Avenue and some of the access points into the city’s parking lot at Williams Square in order to add more parking spaces.

Currently, the city has about 234 parking spaces in the area. With the new streetscape, the city will have 320 spaces with back-in angle parking. Had the council adopted for head-in angle parking, the city would have had 33 fewer parking spots.

P.S. Arora, division manager for the city’s wastewater department, told the council that back-in parking also offers a number of safety advantages over head-in parking.

Foremost, when it’s time to leave, drivers can better see oncoming traffic, Arora said.

With head-in parking, “you back a little, and when no one hits you, you back a little more, and then a little more until you are in the safe zone,” Arora said.

With back-in parking, drivers pull ahead of the spot they will occupy, similar to parallel parking, signal and then back up, which is usually an easier maneuver than parallel parking, Arora said.

Cities that have made the change and nationwide studies have found fewer accidents after such a change, Arora said.

The vehicle’s position also makes for safer loading. Not only can people load packages into a back hatch or trunk from the sidewalk, but doors also open to block access to the street, making it safer for wheelchair access and children.

The change may be hard for drivers at first, Arora said. And the council may have to pass an ordinance that bans idling to prevent exhaust from large vehicles, including trucks, from filling the sidewalks.

Mayor Mark Burroughs asked whether there was time to get feedback from the Traffic Safety Commission or the Downtown Task Force. Arora said they could get the feedback, but it would slow the project.

Council members agreed the committees should be informed of the change, since drivers may have trouble adjusting to it. But they didn’t see the need to delay the project for a decision.

“It’s safer. What’s to argue about?” Dalton Gregory said.

Construction on the new streetscape is expected to begin this fall. The city has reviewed plans that narrow the street to two lanes, widens the sidewalks, define the crosswalks and add trees and other landscape features.

The streetscape project is expected to cost about $3.1 million.

Staff writer Rachel Mehlhaff contributed to this report.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com .

IN OTHER ACTION

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also authorized:

•  Purchasing about 2.5 acres along Woodrow Lane for $286,489 for an electric transmission line, about 8.6 acres for $414,436 for widening Mayhill Road and about 3.1 acres for $371,217 for widening Bonnie Brae Street.

• n Purchasing a bucket truck from Fort Worth Freightliner-Western Star for $192,972, a vacuum extractor from Vermeer Texas-Louisiana for $52,887, two JCB backhoes through the Buy Board Cooperative Purchasing Network for $127,408 and six police motorcycles over the next five years from Victory Police Motorcycles for $210,000.

•  A professional services agreement with PWR Services to prepare state and federal reports required of Denton Municipal Electric for $857,469.

•  Purchasing structures for DME substations from Falcon Steel Company for $1.66 million and from R and C Welding for $2.14 million.

•  A five-year contract with GeoShack America for a new GPS system on landfill equipment for $115,872 and a three-year contract with SHI Government Solutions for Microsoft software for $285,000.

•  Construction contracts with Mann Robinson and Sons to prepare substation sites and transmission line easements for $2.38 million and with Floyd Smith Concrete for $159,821 and Jagoe-Public Company $126,144 for a truck/bus turnaround at Denton Airport.

•  An interlocal agreement with DCTA for new bus shelters.

•  An agreement with Denton County establishing a tax-increment reinvestment zone on 800 acres north of Airport Road to encourage development of an industrial park.

•  Five years of payments to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for two wide-area network connections for $340,000.

•  A developer’s agreement with HMH Lifestyles to finish the perimeter wall at Villages of Carmel and build on the remaining lots.

•  Agreements with the Texas Department of Transportation providing for traffic signals on U.S. Highway 380 between U.S. Highway 377 and Bonnie Brae and canceling a previously planned bridge replacement on Mayhill Road.

•  Rejecting bids for utility relocation along U.S. 380 and the new Cooper Creek sewer line in order to seek new bids that include excavation specifications.

•  Agreements with the Denton Firefighters Association to change two positions in the department, with no impact on current budget.


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