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Kyle, Texas | Economic Development

Engineering set to begin on Kyle roads

 In March, Kyle City Council approved engineering contracts for the five roads included in last year’s $36 million road bond election, and design work is expected to begin later this year.

The council unanimously approved on March 19 the engineering contracts for Lehman, Goforth and Bunton Creek roads as well as Burleson Street and Marketplace Avenue at a total cost of $3.67 million.

In addition to construction and engineering costs, funds are also figured in to the $36 million for rights of way purchases and contingency reserves. City Finance Director Perwez Moheet said any funds left over would be used for other needed road revamps in Kyle.

“Based on what I know and where I sit, I doubt very much that there is going to be substantial amounts of funds remaining after the projects are all done,” Moheet said.

Projects

Marketplace Avenue will be extended from its current ending point at City Lights Drive to Burleson Street, and the other four roads will be widened and repaved.

Safety and mobility for cars, bikes and pedestrians are the two primary reasons cited for the construction projects. As part of the reconstruction, street lighting and sidewalks will be improved on the thoroughfares. Also in the plans are the addition of bike and car lanes.

The extension of Marketplace south to Burleson Street will serve to create a connection from North Kyle to downtown. Lehman Road’s reconstruction will entail converting a low-water crossing into a bridge to eliminate flooding concerns.

Timeframes for completing the engineering of the roads vary from nine months to 18 months, City Engineer Leon Barba said. City officials hope construction can begin in 2015.

Federal funding

With little wiggle room financially and a tax base already paying the highest property tax rate in Hays County, the question of whether federal funding might ease the effect of five bond-financed road improvement projects still hangs in the air.

Former City Engineer Steven Widacki recommended the projects based on their probability of being supported with federal dollars, Mayor Lucy Johnson said during a workshop Jan. 28. But a Federal Highway Administration official told Maureen McCoy, former Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director, none of the projects could receive funding because of their classification as collector, not arterial roads.

“[I am] completely shocked that we had a city engineer who was recommending to council we submit specifically Marketplace [Avenue] and Burleson [Street] to CAMPO … telling us multiple times that those had the best chances throughout this past fall of [receiving] funding [from] CAMPO,” Johnson said, later asking staff how the breakdown in communication occurred.

The mayor told Community Impact Newspaper on March 26 that the city has since learned that it may have been misinformed as to the ineligibility of the roads for federal money. No timeline has been given as to when the city may get an answer.

Councilman David Wilson said he felt an obligation to Kyle taxpayers to submit a comprehensive list of transportation improvement projects to CAMPO.

“We have a responsibility to the taxpayers, in my view, to do everything that we can do to get enhanced funding rather than going to them for bonds,” Wilson said. “I just feel the need to submit the full quantity to show that we are serious ... about improving transportation in our community.”

If the city receives the funding, the federal dollars could help reduce construction costs, Barba said.

“The bonds that were approved are sufficient to build the roads,” City spokesman Jerry Hendrix said. “Anything we can get to supplement that would go toward the reduction of that debt, eventually, I assume. That would be a call made by the council.”

Any changes to the tax rate would be part of the city’s budgeting process. Whether the bond has a significant impact on taxpayers will depend, in part, on the receipt of supplemental funds as well as sales tax revenue and the health of property values in the city.

“The number that we put out there was the worst-case scenario,” Hendrix said. “As our tax base continues to grow and we continue to fine-tune our government operation, that [tax rate increase] could potentially be less.”

Effect

Diana Blank-Torres, executive director of the Kyle Economic Development Department, said when she moved to Kyle in 2005, the anticipation of growth in the city was coupled with the expectation that the population boom would take a toll on city roads.

Now when she holds retention meetings with local businesses, Kyle’s pothole-pocked streets represent the No. 1 complaint Blank-Torres hears, she said. For prospective businesses, having to traverse holes on the road while driving to a property does not bode well for the city’s attractiveness, she said.

“Having those roads rebuilt … will make the land around it much more attractive for development,” she said.

When construction is finished, Johnson said Kyle residents will feel relief.

“Roads like Bunton and Goforth were getting extremely hard to drive for certain types of cars,” she said. “We’re continuing to see an increase in population, so that’ll mean more cars driving these roads. Having the roads done will mean a safer commute to work, safer roads for our kids coming to and from school.”