Manvel city council will debate a revised Thoroughfare Plan at this week’s meeting, which was moved back one day to accommodate the Memorial Day holiday.
The revised plan was presented to council back in March and suggested a more flexible street classification with a greater variety of road widths than was in the original plan. Excluding SH 288, SH 6, and SH 1128 which are all controlled by TxDOT, roads within the city would vary from two lanes to four and would vary in width from 80 feet to as many as 120 feet. 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 will serve to promote a vibrant community and would 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 were presented in an effort to help incorporate a desired small town that is shared by many on council and PD&Z. Boulevards would provide up to 120 feet of right-of-way and offers wider medians and/or on-street parking to give a more spacious feel and would make available 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. Some on council and PD&Z do not favor the plan as submitted, claiming that every road in town gets smaller. They cite the 2008 and the 2015 Comprehensive Plans as supporting their claim that Manvel citizens expressed a strong desire to keep a rural feel as the town grows. PD&Z member Brian Wilmer explains his view that “the amount of space we set aside for roadways can never be made bigger.” He refers to the city of Pearland as an example of the need to retain wide road ROW’s, “Pearland is contemplating purchasing (or using eminent domain) to acquire space along FM 518 to widen the road at a huge monetary and political cost. Are we going to give away ROW’s now, for no real reason, and then have to fight to get them back in the future?”
He also feels the Plan does not sufficiently compare road widths as previously recommended with the new proposed changes and suggests “the space we used to allow for minor roads will now be the space we allow for important connections.” He goes on to complain that “at no point does the plan mention what the ROW’s are for the Pearland streets where they meet our streets. Our streets will be smaller than Pearland’s streets, and traffic will be more congested in Manvel than it is in Pearland.” Wilmer believes the plan leaves little room for sidewalks, greenspace or bicycles and favors holding off on any decision until a planned Parks Board is created that will be tasked with making recommendations for a future bike and trail system. “Why would we reduce ROW’s just before a Parks Board has been created?”
Saying “the plan is too flawed to be salvaged and should be rejected,” Wilmer suggests a new plan should be prepared that would not reduce ROW’s. He feels “the ROW’s are the property of the citizens and it is irresponsible to give them away with nothing in exchange. If in the future a need to make them smaller presents itself we can negotiate the reduction of our ROW’s in exchange for something that is a benefit for our citizens.” He wants the Plan to adhere to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which keeps the city ROW’s as wide as possible. “The city should use this space for trails, bike lanes and greenspace to reflect our rural heritage. No major street should have less than 4 lanes of traffic and the option to install a bike lane.”