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Waxahachie’s growing pains are undeniable.
Whether it’s the increased burden new development puts on city staff such as the building inspectors, longer lines at retail centers or traffic congestion on U.S. Highway 77, the impact of the city’s newcomers can be felt by nearly every resident.
While these growing pains will not be alleviated overnight, the city’s as-of-yet unadopted 2007 Comprehensive Plan looks to address the transportation issue by stating goals and criteria for new infrastructure projects and the reformatting or rehabilitation of the current system.
Like other portions of the comprehensive plan, the chapter on transportation stresses context-sensitive design, for which the “key concept … is that the elements of the street should complement the adjacent development; for instance, a roadway may need to be designed as a six-lane boulevard as it travels through a major retail area, but may need to be altered to a minor street configuration as it travels through a residential neighborhood,” a draft of the plan states.
Director of planning Clyde Melick said using CSD means first looking at “where streets are located, what they’re used for and their capacity.”
Once the purpose of the street is determined, the roadway can be designed based upon the context in which it will be used, Melick said, adding that the thoroughfare planning section within the plan provides a tool to address the fundamental question of access versus mobility.
Using a sliding scale similar to the one shown on Page 2, a “functional classification” for the roadways can be found. Calling the diagram provided in the draft “a very good rudimentary example,” Melick pointed out whereas a highway almost exclusively provides mobility (moving people quickly from point to point), local streets provide access at almost the same ratio.
Such planning mechanisms will help prevent situations such as those found on Highway 77, Melick said, noting that “where we went wrong on 77 was when we thought we could do both (high mobility and accessibility in the same place).”
After applying the seven-step design process the plan advocates for determining context and usage, another element arises.
“Within that street design, you have to look at streetscape,” Melick said. “Some places will need to be designed to get people in and out, but people are on the streets every day and we need to make them more than utilitarian.”
The plan contains several recommendations for streetscapes, which are roadways combined with sidewalks, parking and landscaping. To enable this last element, the plan also recommends the city acquire landscape easements in addition the typical easements.
The additional elements are designed to make the streets more aesthetically appealing and to also to encourage other types of transportation.
“It’s not about moving cars, it’s about moving people,” Melick said, noting the plan calls for promoting multi-modal transportation, including improved sidewalks and designated bicycle lanes.
“We have to improve the sidewalk system we have,” Melick said. “How can we expect people to walk when there isn’t a sidewalk or when the sidewalk is in poor condition?”
The plan addresses this concern, calling for the provision of “pedestrian and bicycle connections through the integration of on- and off-street trails (sidewalks).”
These trails provide a better opportunity to reduce local traffic than a mass-transit system, according to the plan, which states it “is really focused on addressing regional transportation needs.”
While the off-road trails will be primarily recreation-oriented, “some trails need to be located to provide connections between residential and nonresidential land uses,” such as connecting residential neighborhoods to schools, retail areas and future mass-transit stations.
The plan calls for making the existing and future transportation system more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, including creating “short blocks (and) continuous sidewalks or trails” and “providing a safe, pedestrian/bicycle environment with clearly identified crosswalks and bicycle lanes.”
The city is also aiming to make driving safer as well, Melick said, explaining that it will strive to make streets safe and visually appealing, using “traffic calming” designs to slow people down.
One such design already in place are the “chicanes” downtown, the large, rounded corners that shorten the distance between the two curbs, Melick said, adding that parallel parking could be implemented on more streets in the city due to the “traffic-calming” effect such parking has.
“If streets are lined with cars, it creates the illusion of a narrow street even on a relatively wide roadway, and that perceived narrowness makes people slow down,” he said.
According to the comprehensive plan, a transportation system should:
provide mobility and accessibility at appropriate levels according to the type of roadway focus on multi-modal transportation options, including pedestrian/bicycle access and ultimately transit expand as needed to meet the needs of the city’s growing population and additional development be economically feasible for residents and the city be correlated with regional considerations, including new/expanded highway systems and transit availability
To satisfy these requirements, “we’re taking a lot of important steps,” Melick said.
Noting that requests-for-proposals are now out for the Broadhead Road and Parks School House Road projects, Melick said the city will have its first opportunity to integrate the concepts of the plan on the two proposals, both of which are due Aug. 6.
The two projects are the first of their kind for the city, which has never undertaken a road project of their scale.