City considers updated Thoroughfare Plan

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In an effort to stay abreast of evolving development trends city council authorized a review of the city’s Major Thoroughfare Plan to better its proactive approach to impending growth. Some projections show Manvel having a population of 130,000 by 2035. Past growth trends showed population forecasts at 40,708. The 220% change in estimates reflects new development trends in recent years. Authors of the Plan used a third forecast of 108,000 by 2035. The number was based on projected commercial and residential development patterns and was vetted by city staff.

Manvel is comprised of 15,000 acres within its limits and 10,000 acres in its Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). The vast majority of that land is vacant and primed for development. The city’s small town character, proximity to Houston, and adequate access to SH 6 and SH 288 make it an appealing place to live. Because it is largely undeveloped the city has the flexibility to make proactive decisions on its transportation infrastructure that more developed communities are unable to do.

The Thoroughfare Plan offers a long-term integrated strategy for vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle, and capital projects planning. Among the key principles of the plan is providing convenient internal circulation between neighborhoods and community assets. To preserve neighborhood integrity, through traffic should be minimized to specific facilities designed to accommodate non-local and regional traffic. A safe pedestrian/bikeway system should provide connectivity between neighborhoods, community facilities, and retail areas. The basis of the Plan provides for the integration of surrounding areas where connectivity is equally important in an effort to ensure accurate and efficient regional connectivity. The Plan considers it critical to coordinate transportation policies and decisions among its regional neighbors.

The Plan is envisioned to comprise a range of transportation choices, described as multi-modal, which will offer opportunities to drive, bike, and walk. A focus on mobility choice, the Plan authors posit, will ensure a vibrant community and support strong neighborhoods, employment centers, and activity centers.

SH 288 and SH 6 are the two major thoroughfares within the community and set the foundation for overall network development as they are the key focal points for future residential and commercial development. Current traffic counts on each of those roadways are typically in excess of 20,000 vehicles each day. A limiting factor the Plan contends with is the lack of contiguous connectivity through the city limits and its ETJ. Croix Road (CR 58) is projected as a major east-west arterial roadway but it ends at the middle of DelBello Road (CR 90) and fails to continue east to Masters and even further east towards Pearland and Friendswood. Bissel Road (CR 190) could be another viable east-west arterial to relieve SH 6 traffic but it is not contiguous throughout the city limits. The growing number of master-planned communities presents the challenge of adding critical linkages in order to prevent system congestion.

The Plan considers it important to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle activity and includes a non-motorized network including both on-street and off-street bike facilities and the inclusion of sidewalks and pedestrian amenities along a number of corridors within the city. These areas will provide access to schools, shopping, and transit stops, and will provide public spaces for people to enjoy recreational activities. Along with the use of wider rights-of way and open space along drainage corridors, bayous, and undeveloped areas, the bicycle and pedestrian amenities will serve to better balance the city’s traditional rural character with future development.

Boulevard corridors will help incorporate the desired small town feel as they provide wider medians and/or on-street parking to give a more spacious feel and will have offer sufficient right-of-way to accommodate bike lanes, multi-purpose pathways, and potential equestrian trails. Medians are encouraged to provide aesthetics such as landscaping, lighting, and urban design features. Medians also serve to significantly increase safety crash rates reduced by over 50%.

Significant roadway changes that will transform the area include a projected expansion of SH 288 to four lanes from downtown Houston to SH 6 and the addition of toll lanes south of SH 6 by 2035. The Grand Parkway (SH 99) is a proposed 180+ mile circumferential highway traversing seven counties that encircle the Greater Houston region. A 28-mile segment is projected from IH 45 to SH 288, generally near CR 60 which is a mile or two north of FM 1462 in Rosharon. The current plan is a 4-lane tollway with 2-lane frontage roads with an expected completion in 2022.

Most of the plan will be implemented and paid for as growth occurs in and around the city in coming years. Developers will fund the bulk of the implementation but some city funds will be required to provide linkage among the various communities. Currently the city has just two road projects in its Capital Improvement Plan, both listed as 2016 possible start dates. One will include an inventory and evaluation of all city managed streets that could provide the foundation for the major roadway system overhaul that will be needed to accommodate the expected population growth. The other is a major reconstruction of Masters Road (FM 1128) that will retrofit the roadway with concrete, curbs, and gutters and will span from SH 6 to CR 100.

Plan authors suggest the Plan be reviewed on an annual basis and revised according to changing conditions and population trends. With the level of development in process and intended, it is likely the city will see significant changes to its transportation system in coming years.

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