The city of Brownsville has embarked on creation of a Sidewalk and Trail Master Plan and is inviting residents to make recommendations for what should be in it.
An online survey had already garnered 552 responses as of April 14, and the Mary Yturria Center at the Historic Brownsville Museum, 641 E. Madison St., will host a community open house April 21-22 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to collect public input.
Mark Lund, transportation planner for the city’s mobility division, said a key focus of the planning effort is identifying safe routes between home and school, where gaps in sidewalks exist, which routes should be prioritized and so on. Another big concern is access to Brownsville Metro transit bus stops, he said.
Lund said the response to the online survey so far shows residents are very interested in the issue of trails and sidewalks, noting that much of Southmost was built without sidewalks, which he blamed on a laissez-faire attitude on the part of the city back in those days. Getting Brownsville where it needs to be in terms of trails and sidewalks, and safe school and transit access is a long-term project, and we’re talking decades, though public participation in the current survey and this month’s open house will help dictate what gets done first, he said.
“The way I look at it is, it’s even more important than you show up and let us know,” Lund said.
The old expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” applies here. Two dozen residents of a neighborhood lobbying for a particular project are likely to get more attention than two people lobbying for a different project in another neighborhood, he said.
“We do want the public to be involved,” Lund said. “They know some things about their neighborhood that we may not know. We want to know what they think is important. Are they using the trails for fun? Are some of them riding their bike on a trail to work? Are there some sidewalk connections that would get them to the trails?”
Finding the money to pay for it all will be a necessary subsequent step, though the process starts with planning, which requires community input, he said.
The city signed a contract with consultant Halff Associates Inc. late last year to help with the master plan. Lund said his department will work through the summer on draft recommendations for the plan and then the consultant will provide cost estimates.
“Then we’ll say these are the things that ought to happen in the next three to five years, and we’ll again open it up for comments,” he said. “Sometime in the summer we’ll open it up again. This will not be the only opportunity to comment.”
The final draft of the master plan should be done around September, Lund said.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 precautions will be in place for the April 21-22 open house, and participants will be asked to wear masks, he said.
“If the weather is OK we can set up in the courtyard outside,” he said. “If people feel more comfortable being outside that’s fine with me.”
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The online survey can be found at www.SurveyMonkey.com/r/BvilleSidewalkTrails.