Debate over possible lane width changes on the Sidney Baker bridge over the river to allow increased pedestrian space dominated much of the May 25 Kerrville City Council meeting, with citizens opposed and council voting 4-1 to approve the first step in seeking funding from outside the city budget.

TXDOT resolutions,

transportation alternatives

Almost a dozen people attended this meeting with negative opinions on possible road construction using Texas Department of Transportation’s 2021 “Transportation Alternatives Program.” The city is in the process of asking to be included for this state funding and must be included on a state selection list for the funding to be possible.

But locals are already protesting some of the possible projects, especially any changes to the traffic lanes on the Sidney Baker bridge over the Guadalupe River. This is being considered under a plan to possibly narrow the traffic lanes to widen the sidewalk for pedestrians.

This was presented to council as a group of three resolutions. One was for projects at Tom Daniels Elementary School. The second was for projects at Tally Elementary School. Citizens didn’t have nearly as much to say about these two as they did about the following.

The third resolution read “Supporting the City of Kerrville’s application to the Texas Department of Transportation 2021 Transportation Alternatives Program call for projects - Kerrville Hwy. 16 and Highway 98 Pedestrian & Traffic Improvements.”

City staffer Kyle Burow first told council and citizens that these three possible projects are about $45 million of federal money through TxDOT; and the state agency is considering entities’ proposals to create a list of future recipients.

Near DES, he said the money would fill in sidewalks and other gaps on Olympic Drive. At TES, the federal/state money would create safer ways for Tally ES students to walk near the school than on the shoulder of Goat Creek Road.

The third resolution, he said, concerns State Highway 16 through downtown and south across the river. “It’s mostly sidewalk and intersection improvements at Thompson and (Hwy.) 16,” he said. “We have to get our application in by June and it will take two to three months to find out (if Kerrville is on the list).”

Burow said the city staff’s project designs are not quite set in stone, but TxDOT will tweak them, too. The Thompson Drive work is estimated at $3.2 million compared to $1.2 million at DES and $400,000 at TES; and the state would give the city up to four years to do the work.

Public comment

The first resident to comment said he has issues with traffic flow on the bridge, asking if there would still be two lanes each way. He asked for no reductions in lane widths, because the option for wider sidewalks means reducing lane sizes and he’s against that. The agenda item needed more details, he said, as there wasn’t enough information or transparency especially about the lane sizes.

The next speaker asked if they intended to eliminate the turn lane to widen the others; and protested the bridge was built to move (vehicle) traffic and the proposal says walking and bike networks. She said recommended lane widths are 11-13 feet and asked if they are going to expand the bridge to do this.

The next resident said she opposes gas taxes being used for anything but roads, and pedestrians don’t pay gas taxes, drivers do. She called this proposal “straight out of the far left’s playbook” and compared it to existing traffic on Sidney Baker when HPMS classes are dismissed. She said visitors to the city don’t come on foot, they come in cars. “Remove this project,” she told council; and most of the audience applauded.

The next speaker asked where the maps are for these projects; and asked what the city’s matching costs will be. He said as a cyclist, he doesn’t ride on the Sidney Baker bridge; and asked city officials to “think hard about this project.”

The next citizen called the bridge project “not worth doing” and told council “not to limit that bridge in any way, shape or form.” She agrees the road tax should be used only for roads. She also was applauded.

Staff response

City staff said the bridge lanes are more than adequate; and there still will be a center turn lane. On expanding the bridge, citizens were told a pedestrian-only crossing would be “exponentially more expensive” and there are other pedestrian bridges in place now. The federal government earmarked this money for pedestrians, city staff said.

Widths given by the staff were 4-6 feet for the sidewalk; and traffic lanes that are now 11-12.5 feet might be 10.5-11 feet wide.

Council remarks, vote

Roman Garcia asked why this place; and was told this was triggered off the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Bill Blackburn said the Comp Plan talks about a “walkable city” and that’s what they are trying to do.

Judy Eychner asked city staff if they could do only the work at the elementary schools; and was told TxDOT wouldn’t do just those.

Garcia moved to approve only proposals one and two, but got no second; and the motion failed. Kim Clarkson moved to approve all three resolutions, and Eychner seconded it. The vote was 4-1 to approve, with Garcia voting no. He said for clarification, he only opposed the third project about the bridge, not the other two.

Street reconstruction

Council approved a professional services agreement with Rock Engineering & Testing Laboratory, Inc., for the 2021 “Reconstruction Streets” project in the amount of $78,000. The vote came after a councilmember asked to pull this item from the Consent Agenda to ask questions.

City staff said this contract was mostly for rock testing; and to certify that roads meet the proper standards. The next planned street work will be in the Doyle area near downtown Kerrville.

This street work is part of a $10 million allocation. Asked about timing of the work, city staff told council the contractor will first deal with utilities installed on those roads; and then the work will probably continue over a five-month period.

Nimitz Lake,

internal combustion engines

Council approved a resolution authorizing the use of internal combustion engines on Nimitz Lake upstream of the city’s water impoundment dam, when the lake will be used for the swimming portion of the Kerrville Triathlon and safety officials during that competition. The 10th annual Triathlon is scheduled for Sept. 25-26.

The swimming portion will be held in the river, with the start and finish at the north end of Guadalupe Street. Watercraft with internal combustion engines will be used in placing buoys for course preparation; as well as monitoring and potential rescue of distressed swimmers.

Kerrville Chalk Festival

Also as part of the Consent Agenda, council approved a resolution authorizing the waiver of fees concerning public safety staffing and other fees for the Kerrville Chalk Festival. This event will be Oct. 16-17 in Peterson Plaza.

Fireworks, Fourth of July

Council approved an agreement between Magic in the Sky, LLC, and the city for the planned fireworks display for July 4th and River Festival Events.

This agreement is with the same company that has provided the July 4 holiday fireworks for the last three years; and it was renewed for another three years (2021-23). The two events were packaged together for multiple years.

The company’s proposal was for $50,634 total, for all three years. The cost is split at $11,979.42 for each July 4th event, and $4,898.79 per year for the Kerrville River Festival. Staff and council will budget each year for this.  

Kerrville Kindness Award

The May “Kerrville Kindness Award” was given to representatives of the recent fundraising “Guns & Hoses” football game between the Kerrville Police Department and Kerrville Fire Department. The award was presented by Mayor Bill Blackburn in honor of the two teams for the funds raised and given to Kerrville’s Families & Literacy nonprofit organization for their work with literacy, GED and studying for citizenship.

Declaration, State of Disaster

Council briefly reviewed the declaration of a local state of disaster due to a public health emergency; and new City Manager E.A. Hoppe reminded them active COVID cases have increased again, to 30, and he recommended extending the declaration.

Announcements

Announcements on behalf of the city included the announcement of the Olympic Pool opening for the summer season on May 29, and a list swimming lesson times available from the Parks & Recreation Department; the Daddy-Daughter Dance set for June 5; Summer Soccer League starting; and signup for the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program on Wednesday, June 2, 6-8 p.m.

Salute to Mark McDaniel

Council opened this meeting with a thank-you and gifts to outgoing City Manager McDaniel and his wife, Cindy, as he retires and they move to the Dallas area.

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