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David Minton - DRC

Orange signs of progress

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
Sidewalks lining North Locust Street were undergoing reconstruction last week. New curb ramps are designed to improve accessibility for people with mobility and vision impairments.David Minton - DRC
Sidewalks lining North Locust Street were undergoing reconstruction last week. New curb ramps are designed to improve accessibility for people with mobility and vision impairments.
David Minton - DRC

Cones, barricades flourish as city starts tackling backlog of road repairs

Denton drivers are navigating around lane closures and following detours not only along Interstate 35E, but also on city streets.

Construction on state and locally funded projects began in earnest last year. While state contractors say they expect to finish work on I-35E by 2017, significant work on Denton streets will likely last a decade.

Or, as Keith Gabbard, city street superintendent, puts it, “I have a list with $92 million in projects on it.”

Denton voters approved $20.4 million in general obligation bonds in November to begin taking a bite out of that backlog. About two years ago, the city commissioned a report on the condition of its streets and learned that nearly 1,000 street segments had failed.

With the bond money, the city has scheduled street reconstruction in $4 million increments, this year and over the next four years, in part to avoid raising the property tax to pay the debt service.

The Denton City Council is expected to put another major bond package before voters this November. The latest package will likely have another round of street reconstruction money in it.

For the first year and the first $4 million of the program, city crews have finished 30 of the 38 street segments they planned to rebuild, Gabbard said.

As they finish the last eight segments of the first round, crews have queued up 53 more street segments for the coming year, Gabbard said. The work includes residential streets and thoroughfares, with several major roads on the city’s northeast side to be rebuilt, including portions of Windsor, Sherman and Nottingham drives.

Through the spring, however, residents can expect detours on five other major roads — North Carroll Boulevard and Edwards, James, Hickory and Locust streets — as crews either complete utility work or rebuild the pavement.

Crews still perform regular street maintenance. And they are coordinating with several other major construction projects in town, including the city’s “grand street” renovation of East Hickory, and the state’s widening of U.S. Highway 380 and sidewalk improvements along Locust and Elm streets.

When the utility work on East Hickory is finished, likely by May, crews will begin reconstructing the street itself, along with the sidewalk and beautification elements. The work will be done in stages, with crews closing only parts of the street at any time. The “grand street” project is not expected to be finished until December.

Businesses on North Locust have struggled a little with the occasional lane closures and traffic changes last week as the state works on the sidewalks. Neither Locust nor Elm belongs to the city, Gabbard said, because they constitute U.S. Highway 77 through Denton.

Local insurance agent Tim Shoopman, whose office is on Locust, said he didn’t hear specific details about the work that was coming, including when it would start or finish.

He doesn’t think the construction has cost him any customers, but some longtime customers still like to stop by the office to take care of their insurance business small-town style, face-to-face. He gets as much new business through the phone or online as he does with walk-ins to his office, which is known for the bright red 1940 Chevrolet fire truck parked out front.

“It’s inconvenient, and they’ve mentioned it,” Shoopman said of the work on the street. “But it’s not a big deal.”

He said he was surprised at how much of the sidewalk the construction crews tore up all at once. But the reconstruction, which makes the sidewalks more accessible to people who use wheelchairs or who are blind, seems to be going quickly, he said.

Giuseppe Brownell, whose namesake Italian restaurant is in a historic home a few blocks south of Shoopman’s office, said he’s noticed that construction has sometimes made it difficult for drivers.

“They put out all those cones and it’s confusing for people, but they can still get in the driveway,” Brownell said.

Business has dropped a little for the lunch hour, but not really for dinner, he said.

“They just really started [construction] not too long ago,” Brownell said. “I hope it will get done pretty soon.”

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.