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CM Allen construction to begin next year

Photo by: Pablo Mejia | Staff Photographer
City officials have decided to do a reconfiguration of CM Allen Parkway from Hopkins Street to University Street, increasing accessibility for both vehicles and pedestrians.

San Marcos roads will undergo even more construction beginning in early 2017.

City officials have decided to reconfigure CM Allen Parkway from Hopkins Street to University Street, increasing accessibility for both vehicles and pedestrians.

Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3, said the main reason for the reconfiguration was to create a smooth transition from a vibrant downtown area to the nearby river and parkland.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have that vibrancy and urban core just two blocks from the most beautiful river in the United States,” Thomaides said.

Many activities take place around CM Allen, and attendees will often park on the side closest to downtown and walk across the street. The reconfiguration will provide a safer environment.

“It provides them the opportunities to safely traverse the community in their vehicle and also access the park by using parallel parking,” said Greg Schwarz, senior project engineer. “In addition, (they can) enjoy the opportunity to walk and bike also in a safe manner.”

In 2015, city officials invested $14 million in upgrading streets and streetscapes, but many of these lead to CM Allen, which some residents think is in poor condition. Staff began creating possible construction plans late last year.

The original construction plan was just for an overlay, which would involve grinding off two inches of asphalt and pouring new concrete. After a closer inspection, improvements will also need to include upgrading utilities and storm drainage, Schwarz said.

Schwarz presented three possible options for the reconfiguration at the April 19 City Council meeting. According to the report, some of the goals include keeping through-traffic away from downtown, creating more parking and using green infrastructure.

“We must, by our own standards, do our best in the context of the street itself to provide for all modes of transportation that could possibly be used there,” Thomaides said.

One option is a two-lane street with slip parking. However, one of the concerns shared by Council and city staff was how long a two-lane street would be able to hold increasing traffic. With the most green space, this option would cost $2.12 million and include 12 additional parking spaces.

Another two-lane option would cost the same amount, but include 26 additional on-street parking spaces.

A third alternative would include a two-lane street with room for flexibility in the future as well as 26 new parking spaces, but at an increased cost of $2.27 million.

The agreement among city council members was a hybrid of designs two and three. The final design will be completed in May, followed by a bid in October and construction in early 2017.

“It’s going to be a much more improved and complete street,” Thomaides said.

When the overhaul is completed, the street is expected to be safer for alternate modes of transportation such as walking and cycling. The sidewalks will be improved, and there will be more parking for new businesses as they move to downtown San Marcos.

Schwarz said the city’s Downtown Plan, Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Plan received a lot of public input, and city officials were able to determine what was needed. Requests included more parking, walking space and bike pathways.

“The consensus was we want a complete street that will accommodate all kinds of users,” Thomaides said.

Thomaides said once construction is completed, CM Allen would provide a very effective way to travel from the Texas State campus to I-35.

Construction on CM Allen will overlap with construction on Aquarena Springs, which is expected to continue for the next 18 to 24 months. Schwarz said it would be cheaper and quicker to shut down CM Allen altogether, and reroute traffic to Edward Gary.

“An end result would be a smooth construction process, and in the end, a project that the community is happy about because it’s something they wanted,” Schwarz said.