Leaders say transferring ownership from state will speed up widening
Denton is poised to take over the last few miles of East McKinney Street that are still owned by the state — the portion of FM426 leading to Ryan High School.
Local leaders believe the city may be able to widen the road sooner, and for a lower cost, if they take responsibility for the road.
Denton’s mobility committee, which includes City Council members Kevin Roden, Dalton Gregory and Greg Johnson, received a briefing on state-funded road construction Monday. After the briefing, they agreed to start negotiations for the road with the Texas Department of Transportation.
Three weeks ago, a Ryan High student was hit by a car as she walked along East McKinney to school. A year ago, another student was struck by a pickup near McKinney’s intersection with Mayhill Road.
The school has sidewalks on its property, but there are no sidewalks along the road leading to the school. The need for a safe route to school has been an issue since Ryan High opened in 1996.
John Polster, the county’s transportation consultant, told the committee he has helped negotiate such transfers before. Because TxDOT has already set aside more than $18 million for the road’s widening, that money could go to the city as part of the transfer.
The $18 million isn’t enough to widen the entire road. But city staff members told the committee they still recommend negotiating for the road for other benefits in the deal.
First, the city could make the $18 million go further, according to Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune. The city would not have to move utility lines, which can slow down a project. The city also would not be required to build a continuously reinforced concrete road. Both tasks would be required of TxDOT if the state kept ownership and rebuilt the road.
Instead, the city would build sectional concrete.
“Drivers are not going to know whether they are on continuous reinforced concrete or sectional concrete,” Polster told the committee.
Moreover, once the road ownership is transferred, the city may be able to put in sidewalks — even temporary ones — before the road work even starts, Fortune said.
Polster cautioned that negotiations would take a few months, since the talks would require transferring regional toll revenue and highway funds.
To that end, council members requested that Polster negotiate for more construction funds, if possible. After all, the city would be maintaining the road for the future, they said.
“Like a quarterback, if you see a clean pass, go for it,” Roden said.
The full City Council would have to consider any final agreement between TxDOT and Denton over the transfer of the road.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.