A design disagreement in Edmond’s fastest-growing roadway placed Mayor Dan O’Neil at odds with the remainder of the City Council during a planning meeting earlier this week. The Edmond City Council held a public workshop Monday on the current Covell Road widening project from east of Broadway to east of Coltrane.
Mayor Dan O’Neil said city staff has updated construction plans based on the Bicycle Master Plan that was approved last August. He asked for the discussion before the city accepts a bid letting for the project that extends 2/3 a mile from the Fairfax neighborhood entrance east to Augusta Farms.
City staff’s handling of the Bicycle Master Plan is impacting the cost, road improvement options, and attractiveness of Covell as a parkway and will impact its appearance, O’Neil said.
Several discussions of the Covell widening project have occurred, but a thorough discussion has been lacking by the city council, O’Neil continued.
“I’m hoping the city council will take a look at what we have created, possibly make some appropriate changes that can balance the needs of all the citizens in our community,” O’Neil said, “and apply some thought to this project, and not follow blindly a plan that was developed without consideration to cost, and how this particular project would look.”
O’Neil said the parkway aspects of Covell from Broadway to Coltrane will not resemble a parkway due to recommendations in the Bicycle Master Plan. He said the planned parkway will be without a median except in the turn-lane intersections.
POINT OF DISCUSSIONS
VETTED, SAY MASSEY, DAVIS
In 1996 the city council devised a Covell Parkway resolution to accommodate vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles. To suggest that the Bicycle Master Plan is dictating the course of the parkway is inaccurate, said Nick Massey, city councilman.
Massey clarified that the Bicycle Master Plan was written in 2012. The city council’s discussion in August was only to update the plan, Massey explained.
“You characterized it as a master plan being discussed in three or four minutes — not quite accurate,” Massey said. “But I am glad we’re having this meeting because there is so much talk about what this parkway is and is not.”
O’Neil said the Bicycle Master Plan has never interfaced with the Transportation Plan as intended in the 2012 bicycle plan. O’Neil suggested incorporating the bicycle plan into the Transportation plan next year.
City Councilman Darrell Davis said the council discussed all impending city plans during its budget hearing held earlier this year. Discussions included merging the Bicycle Master Plan with the Transportation plan, Davis said. Aggregating one central plan will streamline the process, Davis said.
“That’s what they’re doing now,” Davis said.
BUILDING A PARKWAY FOR GENERATIONS
City Engineer Steve Manek said Covell has been widened from the intersection of Sooner to U.S. Interstate 35 to accommodate long-term traffic. The eventual widening of Covell Road into a parkway will improve traffic flow to four lanes from Fairfax Boulevard to Griffin Drive.
The engineering department is working on a project under design involving two easements it is close to acquiring, Manek said.
The city cannot begin the 36-month process of relocating utilities for the project until all the necessary easements are secured, City Manager Larry Stevens said in June.
“We will then be able to advertise for bids,” he said.
Manek said the city has already relocated all utilities on the north side of Covell.
City funds will be the only source of payment for this project after the bid letting process begins and is finalized. Approximately $8 million was allocated for the project in the city’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget. All of the funding comes from the 2000 Capital Improvements Sales Tax.
Four lanes will go in each direction with turn lanes into Augusta Farms, the Lakes of Cross Timbers, Lamond Hill, and Fairfax, Manek said Monday.
“We propose to put 10-foot side paths both north and south,” Manek said.
Road work on Lamond Hill will need to be lowered by 7 feet for vehicle safety reasons, Manek said. Drivers are currently driving over blind hills, Manek added.
“It is not designed for 45 mph which is what it’s marked,” Manek said. None of our old section line roads are, especially when you’re going east.”
Many drainage improvements will be made. Several retaining walls will be built along the parkway. The design calls for 24-feet of pavement west and eastbound with 10-foot side paths for bicyclists and pedestrians, Manek said.
Edmond resident and bicyclist, John Harkess, said side paths are wonderful for riding bikes. He rides the path regularly when traveling to Mercy on I-35.
Originally the entire corridor was under design, but only 30% of the study was completed, Manek said. The city had a lot of money not being used for the project. So the contracts were renegotiated or cancelled so the city could use the money for other needed purposes.
Medians will help traffic flow, and reduce rear-end collisions, Manek said. When the design work is completed the city will know how far west the medians can extend, he said. The side paths may need to shrink to 6 or 8 feet once the final design is completed depending on survey work. Federal law stipulated 5 feet minimum for the pathways.
“We don’t have an engineer to tell us that. A lot of it has to do with how much do we change the grades,” Manek said.
MAYOR WANTS PARKWAY NEEDS
CONSIDERED BEFORE SIDE PATHS
O’Neil asked if only one side path on Covell be constructed instead of the two on both sides. Side paths use on both sides could be narrowed, he added, so the parkway could reach its full potential.
Green space added to the trails could help users of the paths venture safely to their destination, O’Neil said. But Assistant Manager Steve Commons pointed out that when he helped manage another city that tried adding green space it caused more problems. The city had to come back and remove the grass because the unleveled area became hazardous. There were also maintenance problems with the neighborhoods being responsible for upkeep.
Engineering plans would need to be modified to reach this goal, Manek said. And it’s not a simple process. Every profile sheet would need to be re-quantified.
“Putting in two 10-foot wide bike trails on both sides of the road and not having a median that provides aesthetics, but mostly provides a safer road to drive is wrong,” O’Neil said.
Moore pointed out there are neighborhoods on both sides of Covell. Residents should not have to cross Covell to use a side path, he added. O’Neil reiterated there is not enough space for two trails on both sides of Covell with limited space.
Councilman David Chapman said the width of the trails is for multi-use purposes.
Multi-use trails allow the city to grow with connectivity, Davis said.
“So why don’t we try to let people get down the road safer — okay?” O’Neil said.
Davis asked what is not safe about medians. The idea of medians is to improve traffic safety, O’Neil continued.
“We’ve got medians,” Davis said.
Davis said putting medians all the way down the parkway is wrong.
“You have to have cross access,” Davis said.
O’Neil complained the plan does not include landscaping. Davis reminded O’Neil that the plan is in draft form.
“There’s nothing drafted in the fact that everyone here seems to think you have to have 10 foot on both sides,” O’Neil responded.
Councilman Josh Moore said he supports the 10-foot side paths on both sides of Covell. The medians planned for the parkway are adequate, Moore said.
“I’m a supporter. When you have Covell developed as a northern loop, it’s going to be used by bikers, walkers on both sides,” Moore explained. “That’s what it’s being built for.”
O’Neil said his intention is to make the parkway visually appealing. The road needs to be safe for users so they don’t get rear ended, he said.
“That is exactly what the design is,” Moore said. “It makes it safer — it’s making it wider with turn lanes — it’s adding medians. So it is making it better for the drivers. And the 10-foot paths are making it better for pedestrians, bike riders, and overall.”
Covell Road is the fasted growing area of Edmond, Moore said.
“All the reason to make it safer,” O’Neil said.
Additionally O’Neil said neighborhood easements are not all the same, he said. The city is encroaching on neighborhood walls and entrances, O’Neil explained.
Asheford Oaks resident Larry Miller said his neighbors are curious if the 10 feet taken from their sidewalk will place the side path up against their beautiful brick wall. Manek said, no. Miller also suggested that the trail be placed on one side of the street. No walls will be touched, Davis said according to the preliminary plan.
WHAT’S KEEPING THE CITY FROM COMPLETING DESIGNS?
Massey asked why the No. 1 road in Edmond is slow to construct. There are economic timing issues with pros and cons impacting surrounding properties, Manek said.
“It needs to get finished,” said Massey, while calling for design completion and implementing phases as soon as possible. Temporary fixes at Coltrane could last only 10-12 years, he said. Coltrane will need to be closed during its reconstruction of lanes and turn signals.
“Part of it is though, we don’t think logistically is makes sense to tear everything up,” Stevens said.
Manek said staff could speak with the design engineer and report back to the city council. Meanwhile the project becomes more expensive as time passes, Moore said.
“Whatever’s next — let’s line it up,” Moore said.
Persevering ahead means borrowing funds because roadwork and transportation issues are needed in other parts of the city as well, Commons said.
“We can issue bonds,” Commons said, “because we’re paying off a number of bonds in the next few years. It’s not a question we couldn’t finance it. (The question is) Is this where you want to put your resources now.
The city council agreed to continue their discussions.
Commons said, “We’ll get the numbers. You can look around and see which way you want to go.”