— By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford officials plan to submit an updated transportation plan to city council at its Tuesday meeting.
Director of Capital Transportation Projects Terry Hughes said the last revision to the plan was in 2002. This plan, which takes the city out approximately 20 years, has had input from Parker County, Texas Department of Transportation and surrounding cities to take a fresh look at everything.
“We looked at road classifications and conditions of our roads and also our land use and potential growth scenarios through the year 2035,” Hughes said. “We took models from the North Texas Council of Governments and then ran those through some other computer models to come up with our plan.”
Once the council looks at and approves the plan, a citizen committee is expected to be formed to get more input on the plan and most notably, how to potentially pay for all of it.
“We’re not sure of the funding, but there are some options out there,” Hughes said. “If we don’t use a bond, there are other venues we can look at such as tax zones and grants.”
Hughes said the plan, which is part of the overall Capital Improvement Plan, is aggressive but he feels confident after meeting with downtown and area merchants recently that it not only can happen, it simply needs to.
“We’ll have our CIP committee prioritize projects,” Hughes said. “We don’t want the community to think we’re finished with everything, because as soon as you think you’re finished, you are. It’s kind of the thinking that got us into the situation we are in right now.”
Work on the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway will help to alleviate what is expected to be a massive influx of cars and traffic on city streets in the next 20 years.
The loop, once fully in place, is expected to handle 20,000 cars by the year 2035, Hughes said. U.S. Highway 180, which the loop was built to help alleviate congestion in town, is expected to handle between 24,000 and 27,000 vehicles a day in the same timeframe.
With the continued population growth, which is expected to double Parker County’s growth by 2030, future roadwork and projects will be needed. Projects like the South Main Street widening will need to be done. Hughes said work will continue to be looked at to determine its effect on people and businesses.
“We’re going to see how it affects the downtown area and around the schools and hospital,” Hughes said. “We’re also going to look at not only traffic but economic development concerns as well.”
Cost benefit scenarios have been run and will continue to be run under the new plan with the want of making sure any new roads have cost benefits to them. Most new road construction is expected to have brand new lighting. Hughes said lighting is being looked at on current roads as well, most notably Palo Pinto/Fort Worth Highway from the Ranger Highway split to Bankhead and even a few blocks south along South Main to lighten up the downtown area a bit, which was mentioned during a recent downtown meeting earlier this year.
“We really want a gateway effect as you’re coming into Weatherford from all directions,”
Much of the talk at a downtown meeting in February was wanting to make the city and downtown more pedestrian friendly and trying to unite the four quadrants of the square as much as possible. Some of that can be done, Hughes says, by linking the city’s walking trail system into one complete trail which would be about five miles.
A possibility of creating audible crossing signals around the courthouse to help those with visual and hearing issues is part of the plan.
“Everything we do we want to continue to be cognizant of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Hughes said.