Hutchison Street expansions to make room for emergency, larger vehicles

News Reporter

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Modifications to Hutchison Street will make lanes wider to allow for easier travel for emergency vehicles and delivery trucks.

Proposed modifications to lane width on the north side of Hutchison Street may remedy the current size constraints that keep emergency vehicles and delivery trucks from easily turning onto the street.

During the March 18 city council meeting, the city engineer proposed modifications that will take five feet away from the buffer space between the curb of the sidewalk and parking spaces. The buffer space was added during construction. The current lane size of Hutchison Street is 9 ½ feet, and the modifications would expand the width to 11 ½ feet, according to Jennifer Shell, assistant director of engineering and city engineer.

“(The modification will) allow for safer movements on the intersections and allow people to safely travel through that street,” Shell said. “It will take about three weeks to cut out the bulb-outs and then build.”

The modification to Hutchison Street will provide an additional nine parking spots for motorcycles as well as two more spots for vehicles, Shell said.

“We will change one side because of how it’s laid out now,” Shell said. “We will keep one side angled parking, and the other side will go to parallel.”

It is estimated that the modification will be completed by late summer of this year, Shell said.

The city has available funding left over from water, drainage and street funds to put toward the lane modification cost, Shell said. The estimated cost for the modification is about $80,000.

According to the city’s website, the contractor for the downtown construction is RGM Constructors, and the total cost of the project is $10,200,000.

“So before planning designed this and approved the design, did they not realize that a 9 ½ foot lane would not be adequate for fire trucks, delivery trucks?” said Councilwoman Lisa Prewitt, Place 1.

The San Marcos Fire Department expressed its concerns to the city’s engineering department that the constructed lane currently has tight turns, making it difficult for fire trucks, said Laurie Moyer, director of engineering and capital improvement.

“I think that the design was focusing one element and did not look as closely on the issues of the turning radiuses as maybe we could have,” Moyer said.

SMFD has not dealt with any delay in an emergency response situation since the lane construction, said Fire Chief Les Stephens.

In the case of an emergency situation, the fire department will use both lanes and turn on their warning lights, Stephens said.

“It’s mainly just a matter of being able to even drive up and down in non-emergency situations,” Stephens said.

The narrow lanes on Hutchinson Street make it difficult for other large vehicles, such as buses and delivery trucks, to travel as well, Stephens said.

Once construction was completed on Hutchison, concerns were raised about the development of the lane infrastructure on the street, Moyer said.

“What we are dealing with is a larger area, and looking at the overall expense related to it is of a different magnitude,” said Mayor Daniel Guerrero.

Although the project underwent a review process before approval, the main focus was toward adding sidewalks to accommodate a large number of pedestrians downtown, Moyer said. The review did not focus on the issue of turning radiuses.

City Manager Jared Miller said while proceeding with the construction project, the city will walk “hand-in-hand” with officials and councilmembers to ensure every side is heard in regards to the development.

“We’re growing as a community, embracing new ideas, narrowing lane widths and slowing traffic down through design elements, and some things that work in one area isn’t going to work for our community,” Moyer said.

The city council members did not specify a time when the modification would be approved, but they are currently discussing the proposal.