Lifesaving devices are being installed throughout El Campo with the state and federal government picking up most of the tab.
A sidewalk’s role is to serve as a thoroughfare for those who travel one step at a time, a lane separate from those who prefer motoring in either a car or truck.
Sidewalks weren’t part of El Campo’s plan anywhere other than downtown as evidenced by their lack in most places throughout the town. That’s slowly changing, however, with a now almost decade-old plan that’s beginning to bear ribbons of gray concrete rather than the proverbial fruit.
West Norris Street reconstruction started the effort, one which continues to target school routes.
“Public Works receives concerns and calls mostly for the safety of our kids/students, encouraging the city to invest in sidewalks and bike lanes, for traveling to parks, schools, library and stores,” City Public Works Director Kevin Thompson said Thursday. “We encourage every citizen to engage in conversations with staff about needs for all of our infrastructure.”
In the last two years, about 4.25 miles of new sidewalks have been added, most via the Safe Routes To School Program and Transportation Set Aside Projects (TASA) through the state. This includes walking lanes on Avenue I from West Norris to the bridge across Tres Palacios at Jackson Street and West Norris from the West Loop to Hwy. 71.
East Norris to Wharton Street is almost complete with about a half mile of sidewalk under construction from El Campo Middle School to the Hwy. 71 intersection off FM 2765.
A state project starting next month will put sidewalks from Wilbur Street to FM 2765 (West Loop).
“Design/ program criteria for Safe Routes To Schools states they must connect with schools or community parks, businesses, etc.,” Thompson said.
The Safe Routes To School Program is 100 percent state/federal funded grants. With TASA efforts, the state and federal government cover 80 percent of the cost. Most of the city’s 20 percent is done via in-kind work like providing some of the labor required.
“We have designed a plan inhouse and completed a SRTS application for sidewalks to connect all the schools in our network together as well as with the library and future sidewalk infrastructure,” Thompson said.
Another effort to spur sidewalk growth is through the Mobility Infrastructure Design in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. It now requires that sidewalks be included on development plans for major thoroughfares.
The Texas Department of Transportation is encouraging the safety effort this week with the “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign reminding drivers and pedestrians to slow down, be alert and obey traffic laws.
Last year, there were 5,694 traffic crashes involving pedestrians in Texas, resulting in 632 deaths and 1,205 serious injuries.
The top factors contributing to these crashes were pedestrians failing to yield the right of way to vehicles, drivers failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians, driver inattention and failure to control speed.
Whether driving or walking, state officials say, the public should beware of the distractions caused by electronic devices.
Motorists should reduce speed near crosswalks and stop for pedestrians, yield the right of way to pedestrians when turning, obey the speed limit and exercise caution when passing stopped vehicles.
Pedestrians should use the sidewalks when available or when not walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
Walkers should only cross roadways at intersections, looking left, then right, then left again before proceeding and never assume a driver can see you.