Downtown sidewalk construction begins

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By Christine Bolaños

Construction began Dec. 22 on sidewalks that will enhance connectivity, safety and mobilize downtown Liberty Hill.

The first phase of the construction is set to be completed by March 22 and includes constructing concrete sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalk striping, erosion control and other related items. The project was funded through the Community Development Block Grant program. However, the City is allocating extra funds toward further improvements related to the project.

“There was a need for the access to the schools,” Liberty Hill City Manager Greg Boatright said. “At that time, when we applied (for the grant), I think this school was still in operation. Now, it’s become the administration building but still, what the sidewalks will do is encourage people to get outside more to be active instead of driving their car down to Parker’s.”

People will be more likely to walk with sidewalks since they won’t have to worry about walking on the side of the road and having issues with traffic, he said.

“It’s really a quality of life issue that allows people an alternative to getting in their car and driving somewhere and the mobility either from walking or riding a bike really improves the choices that people have to get around downtown,” Boatright explained. “With the emphasis we’re trying to place on the development of our downtown it just feeds right into kind of what we’re trying to create.”

Liberty Hill contracted a sum of $278,828 with Capitol Concrete Contractors, Inc. for the project.

“The next phase we’ll hope to expand and hopefully maybe go up the loop (Loop 332 or Ranch Road 1869),” Boatright added. “Probably, we can’t reach all the way to Foundation Park, but try and create the ability for people that want to go access the park, to access it either by walking or riding a bike.

“Improving really the circulation and the ability to get around in our downtown area with modes other than driving,” he said.

Before tackling the next phase though, the City not only has to complete this initial phase, but tackle issues that surface as construction continues on the sidewalks.

“We’re going to have some change orders because we have drainage issues that we need to address and now is the time to do that,” Boatright said. “We’re going to probably add some City money to the sidewalk project just to make improvements that we didn’t anticipate and it mostly has to do with drainage issues.”

He estimates it will cost the City about $30,000 to fix any issues that surface during the sidewalk construction project.

“Our streets, that’s one of the main problems that we deal with is the drainage,” he continued. “We want to make sure that when we’re putting in new infrastructure that whatever we put in when we do get ready to address future drainage issues that we don’t have to tear out or go back and modify the improvement that was done prior.”

Even with having to handle any issues that come up, city officials are confident construction on the sidewalks will be completed within the 90 contracted days.

“We’ve got a good contractor,” Boatright said. “He’s a local contractor. They’re really good to work with. They’ve been on the job every day. From the time that they started every day that it was possible for them to work they’ve been there. I think we’re going to be well ahead of our deadline on that.”

Before moving on to the next phase, however, the City plans to re-apply for the grant. The City now exceeds the income level requirement to qualify for the grant, which is administered by Williamson County.

“We plan on going back and doing a new (income) survey so that we can hopefully re-qualify ourselves for the block grant program,” Boatright shared.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be able to start with that project within about 60 days,” he said. “What we’re running into is we’ve got a lot of interest in downtown. We’ve got property owners who are wanting to make improvements to their buildings — with their canopies and storefronts.

“So what we’re trying to do is to make sure that our sidewalk improvements don’t interfere with what they’re trying to do and so we’re trying to coordinate with the business owners,” he added. “We’d like to, in the first phase of the downtown sidewalk, do it from the corner of 1869 on what would be the east side from 1869, over to East Myrtle, and go ahead and make that sidewalk improvement so those businesses can go ahead and do what they need to do with their canopies.”

This will also aid with parking, Boatright noted.

“With the new sidewalk then we can work with (Texas Department of Transportation) to get the pavement markers for the parking between 1869 and East Myrtle and get a designated ADA parking space along there,” he explained. “There’s one right here at the corner, but it really doesn’t work very well because if the person is trying to get either out of the vehicle or get their wheelchair to where they can access it, they’re in the flow of traffic.

“What we’re hoping to do is create the ADA parking space at the corner of East Myrtle and the Loop and allow for the space that’s needed for access to wheelchair or whatever the case may be,” Boatright continued. “We’d like to have that done no later than May 1.”

He said the downtown sidewalk project is a combined effort between the City and EDC as part of downtown revitalization. The City has about $50,000 allocated for downtown revitalization this year through the EDC. The City also has $50,000 in its street maintenance fund it can tap into for other related improvements.

Just before meeting with The Independent Wednesday morning, Boatright met with TxDOT representatives about some of the improvements the City wants to make to driveways where the sidewalk crosses.

“What we’re wanting to do is improve the drainage where the sidewalk meets those driveways,” Boatright said. “One of the things we’re running into is that where we have driveways that cross the sidewalk that are unimproved; in other words they’re gravel.

“What we don’t want and what’s going to happen to our sidewalk is that unimproved driveway there’s going to constantly be debris on the sidewalk,” he explained. “So if you have someone that comes through the driveway in a wheelchair or even bicycles and you’ve got a lot of debris there. So what we’re doing is we’re going back and we’re making improvements to those driveways. Concreting those driveways from the edge of pavement over to the sidewalk so that we don’t have that contamination of the sidewalk.”

This is a project within a project the City didn’t anticipate.

“But, once we got into the project, there’s certainly the need for us to address the situation,” Boatright said. “We don’t want a bunch of dirt, rock, that kind of thing up on our sidewalk because of the driveway material not being hard surface.”

He emphasized that the City is trying to complete the project in such a way that it causes the least amount of disruption to property owners in the area.

“If it’s in front of your house we’re going to make sure that we don’t leave a bad footprint when we finish the project,” Boatright said, adding that city representatives are willing to meet with property owners to address any concerns.

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