Downtown traffic issues dominate Council agenda



There were plenty of questions and concerns coming from every direction Monday as roundabouts and one-way streets dominated discussion at the Liberty Hill City Council meeting.

In the end, the Council voted 3-2 to move ahead with the design phase for the roundabout at the intersection of Loop 332 and County Road 279 and to hold off on approving a plan to make several downtown streets one-way.

Rather than move forward with the plan, Council voted 4-1 to hold a public meeting to solicit feedback from the community.

Council Members Jon Branigan and Wendell McLeod voted against the roundabout measure and McLeod opposed the public meeting decision.

Ben Lake, with Steger Bizzell, presented two roundabout options to the Council for consideration.

The single-lane roundabout in both designs has a maximum diameter distance from outside curb to outside curb of 120 feet, and according to Lake is classified as a typical urban single-lane roundabout. It is designed for a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour.

Both designs included raised splitter islands on all three approaches to deflect and slow traffic, as well as provide assistance to pedestrians.

The two options – one positioned more to the south than the other – differed in a few ways. The first option required more right of way from local property owners, but had less impact on area trees and the development plans for Wetzel Park. It also included one-way access to Munro Street leaving the roundabout.

The second option would use more of the Wetzel Park property as it was positioned more to the south, and would impact more area trees, something the Council was not in favor of. It also eliminated the access to Munro from the roundabout, making a turn onto Munro only possible when traveling south on Main.

“Any traffic that would want to turn down Munro could only turn down Munro if they were southbound on the Loop,” Lake said.

The primary benefit to the second option was limiting the need to take private land, but Mayor Connie Fuller reminded the Council that the City already had a willing seller of the property in question.

“I think this is the least disruptive and the most efficient way for us to move traffic through that intersection without doing a complete overhaul of the whole thing,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright. “It is the most economical, and I think it is the most efficient way for this intersection to be addressed going forward. It creates an entrance into our downtown, it is the identity of our downtown.”

The Council discussed the disruption of traffic in the area through construction, hoping for a way to mitigate the difficulties, but Boatright emphasized he believed this was the best option for the difficult intersection.

“These are some of the things we are taking on as local projects as we try and help address the problems we are seeing in our local community,” he said. “The timing and construction is a painful process, but it’s quickly forgotten once it’s done.”

Once a final design is approved and funded, it is projected to have a nine-month construction time.

One-way streets
The Council was presented with a plan to make six downtown streets one way, but rather than approve the move, Council decided to schedule a public presentation at its Feb. 12 meeting for community feedback.

At the next meeting, residents will have the opportunity to hear the plan and see how the changes will impact the downtown area and traffic patterns.

The plan, as presented, included making Aynsworth, Monroe and Myrtle streets one way south, while Fallwell and Grange streets will be one way north. Barton will be one way north, toward RR 1869, where a divider will allow traffic to go either direction on RR 1869.

The proposed cost of the project, to include signage and necessary street improvements at intersections, is $36,522.50.

“The stop signs and do not enter signs are back to back, so they’re mounted on the same pole, so you get the benefit of only having to put one pole in the ground there,” said John Dean of CP&Y.

When council members asked about other repairs to the downtown streets, Boatright said those would be addressed separately through capital improvement plans over the next three years.

“The next section of streets we do will be identical to what was done on Myrtle,” he said. “We will do flat curb and make all the necessary repairs to the surface. Our plan as we move forward with the street rehab for the downtown area is that we’re making sure the existing utilities meet our needs and if they don’t, we’re putting that together.”

When discussing what benefits this plan would have for the community, the focus was on the practical use of the streets based on current size and reducing traffic in the area.

“The streets are effectively one way as it is. They’re not wide enough for two-way traffic,” Dean said, adding it would help limit who chooses to drive through downtown. “The people who are in downtown, have a destination in downtown. They live there, they’re going to a business there, going to City Hall as opposed to being a rock truck cutting through to go wherever.”

Agreement extended
The Council voted 3-2 to extend the professional services agreement with Diverse Planning and Development (DP&D) for project management services.

The vote came after McLeod made a motion to end the agreement, which died without a second. McLeod and Branigan voted in opposition to the motion extending the agreement.

“I just feel like we’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars that we don’t need to spend,” McLeod said as he made his motion.

The original contract was signed in February 2017, and the addendum extends the agreement through June 1. The amount is set not to exceed $75,000 for the contract services.

“They’re an important part of what we’re doing, and if they were to go away, then it would fall to staff,” Boatright said of the work done by DP&D. “I can tell you with what we’re currently dealing with, and to add that to staff, would be very difficult.”

He said he hopes in the future to be able to fund such work through other revenue streams.

“As we’re moving forward with our planning for the TIRZ downtown, one of the things we would be looking to is funding the consultants that are associated with the improvements we are making to our downtown with the TIRZ as well,” Boatright said.

Executive session
The Council convened in executive session for an hour to discuss posted agenda items, including unspecified personnel matters relating to Police Chief Maverick Campbell and Public Works Director Wayne Bonnet. No action was taken in open session.

It was the second time in two weeks that Chief Campbell was discussed in closed session without action taken in open meeting.