Terry Hughes, Director of Capital Transportation Projects, is wasting little time preparing his Christmas wish list for the next several years to come.On Tuesday, Hughes will present to the Weatherford City Council the new thoroughfare plan of 2013, with some creative and provocative long-range plans."Some of the things in the plan are to coordinate with other entities, which obviously we’ve been doing with TxDOT, the county and some of the surrounding cities," Hughes said. "But we went back and took a look at our existing conditions and did some projections and some really interesting things came out of the discussion."Hughes said they used land use and growth projection scenarios to extend the long range plan out to the year 2035. Those projections were then incorporated into a proposed transportation plan. They took that plan to the North Central Texas Council of Government, who used a computer model that could not only forecast show how much traffic was going to be generated by all of the scenarios, it could forecast where and how the traffic would flow."The plan and forecast assumes that the entire [Ric Williamson Loop] is in place by 2035," Hughes said. "When you start looking at the numbers on that loop, it is pretty significant. On the eastern side you’re looking at more than 20,000 cars and trucks a day by 2035."He said what really surprised him was how U.S. Hwy 180 (Fort Worth Hwy) was going to be affected."Literally, the program projects 24,000 to 27,000 vehicles a day still on that road," he said. "This still leaves our downtown center vulnerable to tremendous traffic loads."He said one way to alleviate the problem they were looking at was to develop some kind of routing program, possibly using Spring Street up to the Bridge Street and arching it back around to Alamo Street."We feel this could reduce traffic flow in the downtown area, allowing us to ‘neck down’ the traffic flow and add head-in parking along the main corridors," Hughes added. "One of the things that the Historic Preservation Commission spoke about at a previous meeting was the desire to have more convenient parking. They also wanted the trucks off the Square, and they wanted downtown to be a destination. This plan is aggressive, but I’m convinced, especially after meeting with the downtown merchants, that this is something we can make happen."Hughes said another issue looked at was corridor lighting."The plan recommends expanding our decorative lighting program down the main corridors from the Courthouse east to the Bankhead Highway Intersection, west to the split at Hwy 312 and a few blocks on North and South Main Street," he added.The plan recommends upgrading some intersections leading into the downtown."What we would like to do is give it a ‘gateway effect’ so travelers will know they are in Weatherford," Hughes said. "As you get deeper into Weatherford, it becomes even more pronounced so you will know you are coming into a historic area."He said most of the roads being built from here on out will have some type of lighting scenario with it - just to bring that safety issue with it.Additionally, a pedestrian plan is incorporated that includes expanding the trail system and linking them to roadway corridors."We also want to make sure traffic signals audible so if you’re hearing impaired you will hear the tone changes and know it is safe to walk," Hughes said. "We’re trying to make sure everything we do includes all the members of the community."The plan includes an eight-phase scenario on how to develop a general aviation airport. Hughes said there was a lot of planning involved in pulling it together but not impossible."I don’t have a time frame on how to make this happen," Hughes said. "I do know that COG is looking to the west side of the Metroplex, especially with the Walsh Ranch gearing up with the possibility of another 20,000 to 25,000 in population projected, not to mention our growth."He said there was a “real need” for a general aviation airport and that most are at 80 to 90 percent filled to capacity in the Metroplex."As it stands, you have to land in Mineral Wells or at Meacham Field in Fort Worth," Hughes said.Hughes said the one thing not to do at this point is think that they are finished."If you think you are finished, you are," Hughes said.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter