Monday, October 13, 2008

Sandy Lake Road vs. Safety of Our Kids and Timely Execution on Voter Mandates

While Coppell is, in many ways, a great city, we still have opportunities for improvement on several important fronts, the most significant of which is safety. On that topic, I have for several years been interested in seeing the remainder of Sandy Lake Road upgraded and completed to equal the rest of its length which was completed in years past.

Several generations of Coppell City Council have, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, chosen to defer, rather than act on, the mandate that the voters gave the City in the Bond election dated November 1999 which will someday see the remainder of Sandy Lake Road completed from Denton Tap westward to Coppell Road North.

As a result of the continuing delays in following-up on the voters’ mandate in a timely fashion, as school began on August 25, we once again saw (and continue to see) those high school students who, because they live too close to Coppell High School to qualify for free bus service, put their personal safety at risk as they walk to and from the High School. For those students who live directly south of Sandy Lake Road, the daily trek to school involves a dangerous crossing over Sandy Lake, coupled with, on one side or the other, a perilous walk alongside 35 mph traffic on the sloping embankment of the adjacent drainage ditch. There is no shoulder on that section of Sandy Lake Road, nor any sidewalks.

While the installation of a traffic signal at the Whispering Hills and Sandy Lake intersection affords a modicum of improvement, it is certainly not THE solution. I would never willingly choose to walk along or cross Sandy Lake Road in that area, and I strongly suspect that no one on the City Council would do so themselves, or allow their children to put themselves at such risk.

I passionately ask that the Council and the City work to immediately develop a short-term solution to this safety issue (crosswalk, pedestrian activated all-direction red light, on-site police during school transit times, SOMETHING), AND establish and honor a reasonable time line to begin and complete the voter mandated reconstruction and improvement of this important artery.

It has been nearly NINE YEARS since voters approved the project. I do recognize that there are many challenging issues that must be resolved in such a project – to include planning and design work, right of way acquisition, wetlands mitigation and countless others, but I am of the very strong opinion that we’ve all waited long enough.

In the years since voter approval of the aforementioned roadway, the Council and City have taken action (as approved by the voters) to rebuild dozens of miles of other area roads, many of which were authorized through bond elections more recent than the one that is the subject of these thoughts. Perhaps language should be inserted in future bond packages mandating that the authorized projects be sequential relative to their approval dates so that future Councils cannot choose to unreasonably defer the voter’s mandates while moving forward on later approvals.

The Council and City decided, in addition to the many miles of streets and other meaningful improvements to our fair city, to add new amenities to include the “sundial park” adjacent to City Hall along with a now-under-construction city cemetery. I just hope that we don’t one day need to use both of those amenities as a result of a lack of urgency in executing the Sandy Lake project - first as a gathering area to express our community grief and secondly as a final resting place for a student tragically lost because we’ve chosen to defer for so long the completion of this important piece of roadway.

In closing, let me cite a quote from Coppell Mayor Doug Stover’s May 2008 State of The City as extracted from the City’s website. While Mayor Stover was writing on the topic of the City’s longstanding dispute regarding extraterritorial development proposed at North Lake, I believe the following portions of his quote are equally well-placed when considered in the context of the topic of this writing: “The City's eminent domain case is still progressing through the court system, but we will not rest until the public interest is protected and public services are provided for.“

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