NEWS HEADLINES

Decatur City Council eyes state roads through town

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Decatur City Council Monday night spent some time discussing which, if any, state highways the city might like to take over.

The Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) last year initiated a “turnback” program offering to turn over control of farm-to-market roads that go through cities and become, essentially, city streets.

When it was first announced, some cities objected, viewing the program as an unfunded mandate designed to shift maintenance costs from the state to the cities. But after meetings between TxDOT, the Texas Municipal League and various councils of government across the state, TxDOT clarified this spring that the program is voluntary.

City Manager Brett Shannon gave the council a brief history of the program.

“They have come up with a system where it’s still available to cities, but it’s strictly voluntary,” he said. “It’s strictly the cities’ decision, whether you would like to accept the maintenance in return for the control.”

Decatur is bisected by two major farm roads – 730 and 51 – which enter the city from the south, follow city streets, cross and go north.

Both routes go through the square, where traffic is already a problem. In particular, FM 51 brings a fair amount of heavy truck traffic across the north side of the square on Walnut Street, Mayor Martin Woodruff said.

Woodruff said Decatur’s best course might be seeing if the program might allow the city to reduce some through traffic through the downtown area.

“My thinking is, maybe it would be a good thing if we could get TxDOT to divert that traffic around downtown,” he said. “I would like to think about the costs and benefits for us to consider taking action to request TxDOT to make a change.”

Woodruff explained that cities can specify which streets they would like to take ownership of – and ask the state to bring them up to specific standards before turning them over.

“That’s the cost the state would be bearing if they agree to do this,” he said. “Theoretically, they take the money they would not be paying to maintain it in the future and put it into the roadway before they turn it back.”

Shannon said liability and maintenance issues were the two things he was concerned about.

“Once they give them to us, they’re not going to take them back,” he said. “From now on, you’re looking at resurfacing it every 15 to 20 years.”

The council will ponder options and discuss the matter further at a future meeting.

OTHER ACTION

The council also:

  • heard reports in a workshop session on the city’s airport, finances, library, Main Street program and police department;
  • amended a special-use permit to allow Double Creek Capital more time to deal with a pipeline easement on the site of a proposed funeral home on Preskitt Road;
  • appointed Wayne Stone to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, to a term expiring in October 2016.

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