Huntsville is one step closer to implementing more sidewalks and bike paths on city streets.
The Huntsville City Council approved Tuesday a topographical survey of Huntsville streets which will be placed in an application for a Texas Department of Transportation grant. The council also approved expenditures for design engineering services.
The $100,000 expenditure will allow for the city to apply for TXDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program grant, a federally funded $52 million program that helps cities and other governmental entities implement sidewalks, bike paths and other related infrastructure at a reduced cost.
“That’s step one,” city manager Matt Benoit said. “We have to have that done in order to apply for the grant. Step two is, TXDOT requires 30 percent engineering design to be complete in order to submit an application for the grant.”
The 30 percent design plans will be a non-specific starting point for the project and will outline where a contractor would place the paths.
Benoit said they will be asking for $1.4 million in order to make the city’s contribution feasible.
“[The $1.4 million] is going to result in a match between I’m going to say $150,000 and $400,000. If we go too much higher than that, we’re going to run into a match we can’t afford,” Benoit said. “We’re biting off a responsible chunk, something I think provides a maximum amount of benefit with a project I think we can deliver and an application we can deliver in time and a match I think we can afford.”
Student government has played a role in promoting more infrastructure both on campus and off. Tyler Livezey, student government external affairs chief, said the council reacted to the proactivity of student government.
“I don’t know that this grant would have ever been pursued or even looked for had [SGA] not gone and voiced, ‘hey, this is something we really want,’” Livezey said. “They’re aware of it, but it kind of seems like… city council reacted. A lot of times they aren’t going to go out of their way to do something they think that people might want.”
Mass communication senior Blayne Saldana said he supports the initiative to get more alternative infrastructure projects.
“I sometimes walk to school, and it sucks because there aren’t any sidewalks,” Saldana said. “I’d be happy because when I walk to or from home I’d always be close to twisting my ankles because of the hill like borders. Cars go too quickly and I’m worried I’ll get hit by a car.”
Benoit said the city has no other options financially to complete a sidewalk/bike path project without the grant.
“This is something that but for the grant, I don’t think the city would ever be able to deliver on,” Benoit said. “We’ve got street projects. We just signed up for a street assessment last night. I’m hoping for the best but planning for the worst on that, and I think we’re going to be told, ‘you need to spend a whole lot more money on your streets than you are,’ and if that’s the case, construction of sidewalks is going to become very, very, very difficult. So I’m very excited for this grant. I think our chances are better than average for getting awarded what we’re requesting. But outside of this, that sidewalk project is extremely difficult to deliver on, financially and in every other way, if the grant does not pay for it.”
Benoit said the next step for the project is city council approval in late April after the survey and engineering design is complete. The deadline for the grant application is May 4.