Denton receives $1.5 million award for bicycle and pedestrian projects

Denton receives $1.5 million award for bicycle and pedestrian projects

Denton receives $1.5 million award for bicycle and pedestrian projects
July 08
12:58 2017

The City of Denton was awarded funds in mid-June from TxDOT through the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) for three pedestrian and bicycle projects, which will begin construction next summer.

The award will pay for $1.5 million of the projects’ cost, or 80 percent. The projects’ total cost is estimated to be around $1.9 million.

“This just allows us to do bigger projects,” said Julie Anderson, the City of Denton’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “We’re going to get a $1.9 million project and we only have to pay $280,000. We get more bang for our buck.”

The process to receive funds from TxDOT is through an application with the NCTCOG. Those applications are then graded on certain criteria, which the council uses to determine the amount of funds given.

“We’re talking about regional connectivity, or the ability for the project to connect the city together with these facilities,” said Kevin Kokes, the principal transportation planner with the NCTCOG. “Projects that improve safety, that would reduce barriers. We’re looking at criteria like that to see how well they achieve these criteria. Then the projects are weighted accordingly.”

Denton applied to two different categories, Active Transportation and Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS). Two of the projects are in the SRTS category. Active Transportation is a category designated for basic pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, while SRTS is geared towards providing better access and safer routes for those who bike or walk to school.

Preparing to climb the hill on Locust Street, a bicyclist races forward at the intersection of Sherman Drive. While many Denton, TX streets have bike lanes, they do no connect well enough, making it a challenge for bicyclists to stay out of danger in traffic. Katie Jenkins

The largest project, which was the application submitted for Active Transportation, will aim to increase connectivity from Downtown Denton Transit Center and to UNT. It will also link bike routes on Hickory Street, Mulberry Street and Eagle Drive.

The two projects under the SRTS category will go towards sidewalks for Ginnings and Lee Elementary school, both within the Denton Independent School District system. In the application scoring process, NCTCOG considers the number of economically disadvantaged kids a school serves. Ginnings is ranked No. 3 and Lee is ranked No.4 out of the 20 elementary schools in Denton, in terms of economically disadvantaged kids.

The sidewalk project for Ginnings will cost approximately $656,000, with Denton paying for around $131,000 of it, or 20 percent. Lee’s project is projected to be a little less than $300,000, with Denton paying around $60,000. Denton will get this money from city bond funds.

For the largest of the three projects, connecting UNT to the transit center will cost a little more than $950,000, with Denton paying around $190,000.

Anderson said while this is a major funding amount, it isn’t a major change.

“[Denton] is implementing bike infrastructure all the time,” Anderson said.

This includes having a goal of adding seven miles of bike lanes and infrastructure every year. Anderson added the city has steadily been doing this since 2012. These projects are also based on previous plans Denton has created, including the 2012 Bike Plan.

The awarded funds from the NCTCOG stems from their “Call for Projects,” which according to Kokes, calls for counties and cities to apply for certain grants that would help an entity fund various projects or upgrades. Kokes said these usually occur every 2-3 years, but maintains there is no set schedule.

“It’s our process of opening up the opportunity for cities to apply for funding.”

Kokes said the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is the current transportation bill the NCTCOG is working under. It also is what allows them to have a Call for Projects. The FAST Act sub-allocates money for surface transportation infrastructure.

“That subset of money is what is available for projects such as this to promote active transportation modes,” Kokes said. “That being bicycle and pedestrian facilities.”

Some residents have noticed the additions of more lanes and sidewalks around Denton. Kelson Honeycutt, 25, a UNT alumni and current admissions counselor for the university, said while it hasn’t been too difficult riding bikes in the city, he notices the changes.

“It’s great because they’re starting to get those bike lanes in,” Honeycutt said. “There definitely used to be none of this.”

Featured Image: At the corner of Hickory Street and Fry Street in Denton, TX, bike racks fill as students head to campus for class. A new $1.5 million dollar project has been approved recently, thanks to funding by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, to help create safer routes to Denton schools in two categories: “Active Transportation, such as bike paths, and “Safe Routes to Schools.” Katie Jenkins

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James Norman

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