Liberty Hill one-way streets unlikely to reverse course

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Commuters trying to get through the downtown area of Liberty Hill have shared their frustrations over the newly-implemented one-way streets plan since it began backing up traffic through town.

Two residents brought their complaints to the city council at its Nov. 12 meeting, and many others have chosen to take their dissatisfaction to social media, but City Administrator Greg Boatright said the adjustment takes time, and the current plan was the best option.

“Anytime you have change like that, especially traffic patterns, people are going to be used to doing things their way and having a set way and pattern of doing things, so anytime you change that you will have what we’ve had, which is all this negative feedback,” Boatright said.

When weighing the options early on in the decision-making process, Boatright said acquiring the necessary right of way to make the narrow streets two way was going to be both cost prohibitive and a major inconvenience for residents on those streets.

“The one-way streets was one of the most logical ways to approach it to where we didn’t have to expand those streets,” Boatright said. “We have a good plan in place where we are doing improvements to these streets to where once that’s done people are going to realize they love it.”

The coming street improvements are something he said residents will embrace once they see the difference it can make.

“I think once we make the street improvements with our curbing and resurfacing and sidewalks, that people will come to appreciate the ability to not have to pull over and wait for a car to pass,” he said. “What would our citizens rather have? Would they rather have us come in and take half of their yard to expand a road that can handle two-way traffic, or would they rather still have the quaintness and neighborhood feel they have now with the existing streets and make those one way and have a little bit of convenience in having to go around or the opposite direction they’ve been going?”

Aside from adjusting to new traffic patterns, the planned Stubblefield extension, which will help commuters avoid downtown and the four-way stop at Loop 332 and RR 1869, will do a lot to relieve congestion in the area.

Mayor Rick Hall addressed the issue at his community update Tuesday, though no one in attendance raised the issue.

“At the last council meeting, people came to speak and ask if we could rethink this for a while,” Hall said. “Greg (Boatright) and I will speak on that to see if there is anything that can be done, but we’ve already put all the costs into it, we’ll really have to look for a good solid reason why we should change it.

“I understand the traffic for some people coming into the city is a big issue, but we will have to figure out the best thing for the city, which is not always the best thing for everybody else,” he said.

For downtown area resident Marites Johnston the situation must be addressed to ease the sudden backup seen every morning because of the changes.

“The traffic is really bad, from the San Gabriel bridge on 1869, all the way to 332,” Johnston said, adding that she now leaves her house about 30 minutes earlier to deal with traffic.

She said since the change, people are cutting through the Fellowship Church parking lot to avoid the four-way stop, and even driving the wrong way down Barton.

She agrees that the opening of Stubblefield Road, when it is completed, will make a difference, but Johnston believes something has to be done before then.

While Johnston is not looking for a complete reversal, she would like to see Barton changed back from the one-way until the Stubblefield project is complete.

“If they could just open the one way until they can get the alternate route to 1869,” she said. “That’s all I ask of the Council and the Mayor.”

Having more communication on the issue is also important to her.

“We elected this council and the mayor, and they should actually hear everybody,” Johnston said. “They should hear everyone on this, because it is not just residents of the city limits effected by this.”

Having the issue put back on a council agenda for discussion with the community is something she would like to see.

“We don’t see any resolution,” she said, citing her comments to the Council previously. “They have to talk about it and let people know what exactly is going on. They have a website. They could post on their website what the resolution to that is.”

The issue was originally discussed in January, and Council Member Wendell McLeod called for the Council to schedule a public meeting to get feedback from the community. After publicizing and hosting a public meeting on the one-way streets proposal on Feb. 12, the City Council voted 3-1, with Liz Branigan opposing and Wendell McLeod absent, to approve the change of six streets downtown to one way. Branigan’s opposition was based on previous concerns raised regarding whether Barton should remain two-way, at least temporarily.

No one spoke against the proposal at that meeting, or at any subsequent meeting until the plan went into effect in October.

The changes make Aynsworth, Munro and Myrtle streets one-way south, while Fallwell and Grange streets are one-way north. Barton is one-way north, toward RR 1869, where a divider allows traffic to go either direction on RR 1869.

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

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