By Julia Jones, Correspondent
The Nolan Creek Hike and Bike Trail is currently stopped short by a railroad, but with a new proposal by Belton’s Public Works Department, it may expand northward by early 2020.
The Hike and Bike Trail plan that was proposed at the Jan. 9 city council meeting is for there to be an at-grade railroad crossing at College Street. If completed, this route would lengthen the trail by a little over half a mile. Director of Public Works Angellia Points said that this might be the last opportunity for the city to connect the two parts of the trail because of a deadline by TxDOT.
“We really don’t know what construction is going to cost,” she said. “We’re at the point where this is the alternative or the project goes away.”
TxDOT has agreed to contribute $2,136,492 in the form of a Transportation Alternatives Program grant with the city’s match of $534,123, and the design plans should be completed by April to secure funding.
Points will present a plan for the council to vote on at the Jan. 23 meeting, and if the council agrees to move forward on the project, construction could begin in Jan. 2019.
The proposed path would utilize UMHB’s private drive, continue along the west side of the UMHB property, go to Industrial Road then to Sparta and Commerce to meet up with the 10 foot stretch of the trail that was constructed as part of the roundabout project. This plan would require building a new access road for UMHB, and Councilman David Leigh expressed concerns about the cost of the project.
“What if we do all these other things and you find out we could’ve just done a more complex tunnel, and it would’ve been the same price?” Leigh said. “I would keep our eye on the primary goal of having the tunnel.”
The council discussed the tunnel idea last year and decided that because of the utility conflict with a fiber optics cable, an at-grade solution could be less expensive.
Points brought up the idea of constructing a fence to run parallel to an existing fence on the opposite side of the trail on College Street, a plan that would have included installation of emergency police call boxes every 500 feet. After discussing the safety concerns regarding a double-fenced walkway, Leigh suggested that it would be best to instead move the existing fence to the other side of the trail.
“It’s going to give a lot more breadth for emergency vehicles or for people to get in and out,” Leigh said.
Points said that the department went over many route ideas such as 14th Street, Industrial Road, North Belton Cemetery property and UMHB property. The council discussed their own ideas of building a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks or rerouting the at-grade crossing point.
“The best option, we believe, is to continue to go through the UMHB property,” Points said at the meeting.
If completed, the proposed path should include lights every 100 feet as a safety measure, as well as trail markers and pet waste stations, according to Points.