City to form task force for future of bicycle transportation

Published on Thursday, 27 March 2014 23:58 - Written by Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

A task force will be formed to weigh in on future bicycle issues in the Tyler and surrounding areas.

On Thursday, Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization members approved the creation of a bicycle task force, which could potentially have up to 15 members.

City of Tyler Planning Director Heather Nick said the organization is now trying to gauge interest and determine who might want to be a member. Then, she said, the Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization policy committee expects to get reports from the task force.

Ms. Nick said Tuesday that the metropolitan planning organization would like to engage the bicycle community to integrate future bicycle plans and future plans for the transportation planning study area, which, according to the city website, includes Tyler and areas, such as Gresham, Lindale, New Chapel Hill, Noonday and Whitehouse.

She previously said the task force would focus on bicycles and their impact on the community, specifically about making a bicycle vision that promotes wellness and recreation, among other things.

“They’re just going to really be able to add value to the planning efforts because we will get their input based on their experience and expertise in that realm,” she said Tuesday.

City of Tyler Traffic Engineer Peter Eng previously said the goal is to expand the city’s existing bicycle routes and provide better routes.

He said Tuesday the task force might come up with ideas as far as where people would like to ride, and as far as input, he’s “all ears.”

Tyler City Manager Mark McDaniel was positive about the task force, saying there is a lot of interest in and around Smith County to have bicycle facilities. He said there also is an interest in making more routes available for recreational bicyclists and those using bicycles for personal transportation.

There are great mountain bike trails at places, such as Lindsey and Faulkner parks, as well as Tyler State Park, McDaniel said.

So, he said, the task force is about “bringing the community together to develop short and long-range plans that are locally driven with support and strong encouragement from TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation).”

The Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization on Thursday also approved the Transportation Improvement Program for fiscal years 2015-2018, with the amendment.

For fiscal years 2015-2018, an extension of Toll 49, construction of sidewalks in Tyler and improvements at Tyler State Park are among the proposed projects in the Transportation Improvement Program.

According to the Transportation Improvement Program, proposed projects under fiscal year 2015 include constructing sidewalks at seven Tyler locations and widening a portion of Farm-to-Market Road 2493; proposed projects under fiscal year 2016 include widening Farm-to-Market Road 2493 from Farm-to-Market Road 346 to south of Farm-to-Market Road 344 and improvements to roads, parking lots and campsite pullouts within Tyler State Park; and proposed projects under fiscal year 2017 include resurfacing Texas Highway 155 from Front Street to Fifth Street and resurfacing Texas Highway 64 from Farm-to-Market Road 724 East to Loop 323.

Ms. Nick said earlier this month also proposed under fiscal year 2015 is constructing an additional segment of Toll 49 from Interstate 20 to north of Lindale, connecting to U.S. Highway 69.

The Transportation Improvement Program also includes various transit improvements, such as bus maintenance and new buses.

Ms. Nick previously said the purpose of the Transportation Improvement Program is to list transportation improvements that are scheduled for implementation in the next four fiscal years.

She previously said the Transportation Improvement Program is the short-range plan under the parent Metropolitan Transportation Plan, a long-range plan that was adopted in 2009 and carries through 2035. The Metropolitan Transportation Plan is updated every five years, Ms. Nick previously said, and any projects that are in the Transportation Improvement Program must be in the long-range plan as well.

It is required to update the Transportation Improvement Program every two years, but it is updated more often to accommodate funding changes or project changes, she added earlier this month.

Ms. Nick previously said the Transportation Improvement Program guides the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation, as well as to local officials, as they budget for planning, design and construction of transportation and transit improvements.

She previously said the Transportation Improvement Program could be amended as necessary after its adoption.