Monday, June 12, 2023

Q: Why does the Richardson cross US-75? A: To get no input

The agenda for the Richardson City Council meeting for June 12, 2023 contains an item that caught my eye for many reasons. It involves the very long and very slow road to improving pedestrian and bicycle access across US-75 and Belt Line. This is great news. I say "contains" (present tense) because the meeting is tonight.

Is it great news for public input or even City Council input? Possible Answers: "Maybe Not" and "How do we know?" Read on after the break. 

For as long as I can remember crossing US-75 at Belt Line on foot and on a bike is a harrowing experience. For as long as I have been following any public input to anything urban related in Richardson the intersection of US-75 and Belt Line has come up in any type of input meeting I can remember. (That's also true for other US-75 intersections but that is not the topic here.)

City council members have mentioned it to me over the years and most times those council members brought up the topic. So it's a popular topic.

So then I see an agenda item on the Consent Agenda for the June 12, 2023 meeting. It says the following which I have excerpted for clarity,

Agreement governing ... Between the City of Richardson, Texas ... and the County of Dallas, Texas ... to design and improve Pedestrian and bicycle access at the US 75 intersection with Belt Line Road ... described in Exhibit “A” attached hereto, and authorizing its execution by the City Manager.

That's great... maybe? What is it? A lot of questions are now popping up. Since the public has been on this for 15 years at least then let's see how the public is involved. Then I read "Exhibit A." It says the following.

Source: Consent Agenda. City of Richardson

Recall that this is on the Consent Agenda and recall what a Consent Agenda is. It is a routine part of the agenda that usually receives no discussion. Example: We are buying office furniture for City Hall or other departments. There is no need to have a discussion. Consent agendas don't get any public input either.

We have what looks like the beginning of one of the most mentioned pedestrian-bike issues in the city for 15 years at least. Now its beginning goes on a consent agenda and it explicitly states there is no input.... Not even from the City Council? What gives?

I am not naive enough to think this the totality of a US-75 Belt Line pedestrian project especially since the amount in the agreement is only $355,000. That is not nearly enough and the map showing the area is not nearly enough.

Map from Exhibit A. Source: City of Richardson

I have also learned in nearly 20 years not to take common sense for granted. I have often been disappointed when I do. That is especially so with pedestrian projects. I have been disappointed with outcomes of those projects many times with the result sometimes being, "This didn't have to happen this way." (Perhaps in the future I will detail some.)

I have questions. I am going to put my questions on the record in public. By the way, the meeting for this item (as I write this) is tonight so who knows what might happen? Maybe some of these will be asked.

My Questions (which should be Council questions)

What is the entire scope of this relative to the entire scope of safe, pedestrian bike friendly crossing outcomes at US-75 and Belt Line?

When this is done are we "done" for the red areas on the map when it comes to safe, pedestrian bike friendly crossing outcomes at US-75 and Belt Line?

If the answer to the proceeding question is Yes or even partly Yes, then how can we justify no public or City Council input?

What's the design? Is it just sidewalks? Are bicycles being asked to be on sidewalks? How does that work?

The design standards lists City of Richardson and NCTCOG standards. Does that include the Active Transportation Plan? The Active Transportation Plan lists standards such as from NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials), League of American Wheelman, and other bodies? Are we following the best of those standards?

If there is no Council and public input, then how do we know?

The map has parts of both the north and south sides of Belt Line but not the entirety of either. How does that work? What happens to the parts not under red in the map?

Is this part of a longer or larger plan? Will the public and Council have input on those plan specifics?

Why doesn't the Council and public have input on these plan specifics?

Richardson has put in (on occasion) ADA ramps that have not been bicycle, child, parent with stroller and pedestrian friendly. How do we avoid that here? How do we avoid that without public and council input?

How much design is done in house and how much is pushed to contractors? How do we assure that contractors - who aren't here everyday - understand what the Council and public wants from the outcome of this project and projects like it?

Is this project really part of a larger piece and too minor in scope in and of itself to require that input? If Yes, then prove it to me.

I could go on with a half dozen more at least. Am I optimistic we will get this resolved and there will be sufficient input? Not really, but I am in the "New Mayor and Council Patience Club" and I would like to be proven wrong. It could that this is so simple of a beginning or so small small in scope that no input agenda item is warranted. Even so we should be asking these questions.

Mark Steger in his recent piece on the City Hall discussion found HERE noted that the many City Council members asked about public input into City Hall. One even asked about following up to assure the public's wishes were met. None forcefully insisted on this however. Mayor Pro Tem Shamsul said, "I think we should be okay, I'm very optimistic." Steger replies, "He may be optimistic, but I'm not."

On the flip side, the Council has asked more questions about public input already and did increase the comment time to five minutes.

Am I optimistic? Hopeful? Frustrated? What I hope for (if appropriate) is not just questions that are asked but actions taken. Let's see how this turns out today and maybe I might have some answers.


  1. Good catch. I hope one or more Councilmembers ask that this item be pulled up from the Consent Agenda so it gets discussion. As for that crossing, I remember going on a "Walk with the Mayor" in early 2022 with about two dozen people. We crossed US75 at Belt Line. I wish I had a transcript of Mayor Voelker's remarks about plans for redoing that pedestrian crossing, but I seem to remember him saying it was on the City's to-do list, but coordinating approvals, funding, and construction schedules among the City, the county, and the state is a major delaying function. "Explore the Core with the Mayor(s)"

  2. I wrote this piece quickly and I had some typos. Those have been corrected... I hope.

  3. This item was left in the Consent Agenda, which was unanimously approved, but Mayor Dubey asked City Manager Don Magner to explain the item. Magner said, "This is essentially getting our contractual instruments in order so that Dallas County can disperse that money to the city of Richardson. Dallas County shares about $165,000. The city shares about $190,000. This is for the design work only. We have not engaged any consultants. We have not begun any design work on this. That will be probably forthcoming in the next 90 to 120 days or so...This project only covers phase one. So it's really a lot of the traffic signal improvements."