Waco: City staff recommends pause for Franklin Avenue conversion

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - City staff started work on plans to convert Franklin Avenue into a two-way street to help with traffic, but after some initial work, it looks like the city will be pressing pause.

In an informal report to city council on Tuesday, city staff offered several reasons for the pause. Staff said the study that was done was based on assumptions of what traffic would look like after the construction on I-35, 4th and 5th streets, and Washington Avenue is completed.

According to the report, the study found that two-way traffic on Franklin Avenue would be practical, but staff and the consulting team staff is working with don’t feel that it will move traffic enough.

Additionally, the report said there could be additional changes to traffic and pedestrian use after the Waco Tribune building is converted to Magnolia headquarters. During the meeting, city council members said they were disappointed to see the pause, but understood the reasons why.

“I hate that we’re pushing pause on this,” Mayor Dillon Meek, said. “Because I think I’m really ready to see some beautification efforts, I’m really ready to see some pedestrian friendly efforts achieved.”

Devin Li, co-owner of Waco Cha, said he was hoping for improvements as well, especially with parking in the area.

“As a vendor on Franklin Avenue, it has been a little difficult, because there’s only limited parking spots,” Li said.

Li said he also understands the reasons behind the pause, but he’s looking forward to when the street will have two-way traffic. The city said it’s important for them to see the other projects finished before moving forward on the Franklin Avenue conversion.

“We’d like to give all of those projects a chance to be completed and then see what the actual traffic patterns are to make sure we are comfortable with converting franklin as well,” Amy Burlarley-Hyland, director of public works said.

Burlarley-Hyland said city staff also wants to look beyond the traffic patterns to see how Franklin can be improved for pedestrians.

“What do our sidewalks look like, what kind of amenities do we have for people,” Burlarley-Hyland said. “Do we have any landscaping, lighting, so it’s a much more pedestrian friendly route as well as being commuter friendly.”

According to the informal report, the total estimated cost for the Franklin Avenue conversion would be $6.6 million. However, the cost of any pedestrian improvements is not included in the most recent estimate.

The report said alternative sources like the TIF could be used to fund the pedestrian improvements, but it would likely be a few years before the money is available.

City staff recommended pausing the project until 2023, or until some of the concerns could be addressed.

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