NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A topic that’s created more interest in the last decade are sidewalks and other alternate transportation routes, such as bike lanes.
As a result, city leaders are placing the issue farther up on the priority list.
Over the next two years, about $2.5 million in new sidewalk projects will take place in Nacogdoches. And the funding source is not from the city's general budget.
Sidewalks on Martin Luther King, Park Street and West College will come from a phased-out Texas State Department of Agriculture revolving loan program.
“So, these monies became available and we were able to capture about $1.1 million of that money,” explained city engineer Steve Bartlett. “Instead of paying it back, they're allowing us to use for appropriate projects."
Such as sidewalks and parks.
Another funding source is the Texas Department of Transportation that will pay for significant expansion.
"One will be a sidewalk along the east side of North Street from Austin to probably all the way to Wal Mart or the loop,” said Bartlett. “And so that will connect a bunch of neighborhoods with a lot of business and locations."
Connect is the key word that Kent Hutchison hears. He's a leader for Connect Nac, a grassroots effort to improve transportation.
“It's bigger than sidewalks. It's about total connectivity,” said Hutchison. “It's about connecting people. Connecting people in cars, people walking, people on bikes. It's about connecting people from apartments to the business district."
Similar groups in other cities have formed. Members place pressure on state legislators to city councils to find ways to build more pedestrian routes.
"It's hard for us to garner big budget dollars just for sidewalks because, again, we're fixing pot holes with that same money," said Bartlett.
Hutchison said, "And we recognize that early on, so I don't think anyone is fighting against sidewalks, it's just how are we going to pay for it."
Alternate funding sources are essential. Sometimes businesses have to anti-up. New sidewalk sections along North Street are there since the passage of an ordinance. Any new business is required to build the frontage sidewalks.
"It will take some time because we're building it in a checkerboard as development occurs," recognizes Bartlett.
So far Nacogdoches has 22 miles of sidewalks. Many are interconnected with one another, as well as with the city's trail system.
Other sidewalks on the drawing board include East Austin, the east side of University Drive, some south of Main Street near Pilgrim’s Pride. East Starr, near the intramural fields, is under study right now.