North Texas Daily

Sidewalks are an actual concern for Denton officials

Sidewalks are an actual concern for Denton officials

Sidewalks are an actual concern for Denton officials
October 29
14:19 2016

Denton should be a safe environment for residents and visitors alike. As discussed in a previous North Texas Daily column, Denton is currently crumbling as a consequence of poor maintenance. If that’s not bad enough, many of the neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks. Public safety is an issue the Denton Traffic and Safety Committee should promptly address.

In an e-mail exchange with Julie Anderson, the bike and pedestrian coordinator for the city, Anderson answered questions about the state of the city’s sidewalks.

Q: Are there any plans to install sidewalks where there are currently none?

A: In 2014, Denton voters approved, as part of the [City of Denton’s] Bond Program, $2 million for sidewalk projects. These are funds to install sidewalks where none currently exist. The $2 million is spread over 5 years.

The Engineering Department is the steward of the $2 million and has created a list of projects based on factors such as nearness to schools, nearness to commercial/employment centers, ADA issues, noticeable “goat paths” and locations noticed by staff over the years. The list has many projects and exceeds the $2 million.

Sidewalks can also be constructed as part of a street reconstruction project through the street department. Additionally, they have $1 million in their operating budget for sidewalks, curb and gutter and ADA projects. New developments are required to build sidewalks.

Other than these three mentioned, there is no current plan or funding for building new sidewalks. The city does have an inventory of sidewalks — where they are and where they aren’t — however, it is just an inventory. It doesn’t include condition, width, if ROW is needed or etcertra.

Multiple departments are working on a way to have a managed sidewalk system, similar to how the Street Department prioritizes street projects that are data driven. It’s important to note, though, that funding, approved by City Council, would have to be granted during budget process to implement such a program.

What of maintaining the already eroding sidewalks? Is the money in the budget to repair existing sidewalks?

The Street Department has $1 million in their operating budget to repair sidewalks. However, the amount is also used for curb and gutter and ADA issues.

Pedestrian crossing points are an issue for many people. Are pedestrian lights tied into the same system as the traffic lights?

Yes, pedestrian push buttons are tied to the traffic signal. If you push the button, the signal is then queued to include a pedestrian cycle. Some lights automatically give the “walk” signal, regardless of [whether] the button is pushed [or not]. The city’s traffic engineer and traffic operations team handle the street signals.

Why do pedestrians get so little time to walk across roads when drivers get significantly larger amounts of time?

There are standards used in the traffic engineering profession that dictate time given for pedestrians to cross. The time given has actually been increasing over the years, and accounts for people crossing who are not ambulatory that would be crossing. That being said, many of the traffic lights in Denton are old and need to be updated. The Traffic Department has been underfunded for awhile.

In conclusion:

The 2014 Bond Program, which Anderson refers to extensively, consisted of four propositions: street improvements, public safety facilities for police and fire departments, stormwater/flood control improvements and park system improvements.

According to the City of Denton’s proposal booklet, City Council is aware that “when voters approve a capital improvement proposition, proceeds from the sale of the authorized bonds must be devoted to the purposes described in the proposition.”

While there is little doubt they are looking to establish the safest possible environment for Denton citizens, one should understand that just like household budgets, the Council’s available money can only stretch so far.

If Dentonites have worries about sidewalks and related pedestrian issues, they should direct their concerns to council members. Nothing can be accomplished if issues are not raised with the people responsible for fixing problems. Sidewalk installation and repair have to be adequately funded.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Shain E. Thomas

Shain E. Thomas

Born in Sacramento, University of North Texas graduate student Shain E. Thomas is an actor, social historian and a freelance entertainment journalist. Shain, a member of National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and the UNT chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), is interested in studying Antebellum American history.

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  1. Jennifer Lane
    Jennifer Lane October 30, 12:16

    Successive City Councils have been unable to address this problem effectively for many years. Not really sure why. There are serious issues that have been brought forward over and over but remain unaddressed or insufficiently addressed. Some have said that the engineering department is slow to act. Others who have been following Denton politics for a long time believe that this is because the Council has been favoring facilitating commercial development over dealing with the core functions of government. In any case, it has reached a crisis point. Citizens have been injured due to years-long inattention to city streets, traffic lights, sidewalks, etc.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jodi
    Jodi October 30, 19:28

    An additional item that I also find to be a concern is the fact that when roads or curbs, etc are repaired the work is often shoddy. The width of the roads aren’t properly measured in some scenarios causing some residential roads to be more narrow than they were before road repair was completed and often the roads looks worse after the repair then before the repair within a very short timeframe. It’s not difficult to build solid roads and sidewalks that will last at least 2-3 decades with minimal repair necessary and I’ve seen this in other communities. I don’t understand why this can’t happen in Denton and it makes me wonder who we are granting these contracts to that they would leave our town in more disrepair than before they started. It also makes me wonder if this is a tool used as job security for the companies since Denton seems to contract with the same companies over again. If they do poor work and need to make repairs sooner than later, they are rewarded with more work. I just want to have sidewalks on all residential streets and smooth roads to drive on. If this is truly important to our city than perhaps they need to contract with different companies.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Kim McKibben
    Kim McKibben October 30, 21:53

    I fell last night walking on the west side of West Hickory street. The dumpster was in front of the house taking up half of the sidewalk. I turned my ankle on the edge of the sidewalk and went down. Gravity always wins.
    Where would an individual in a wheelchair be expected to go? Into to street There was not enough room between the back of that dumpster and the house’s yard wall to allow for a standard wheelchair to pass.

    Reply to this comment
  4. JoeK
    JoeK November 01, 07:02

    stop spending 500M on utilities and the city would have plenty of money to repair roads, sidewalks and fund the traffic department. Simple math really, and this city chooses to buy electric plants rather than safety for its residents.

    Reply to this comment

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