The City Council voted Friday to take ownership of a section of Main Street from the state, a move that would increase city maintenance costs but also provide the city more control over truck routes and downtown revitalization efforts.
The 6-0 vote came at a brief special meeting, beating a March 10 deadline to get the agreement onto the Texas Transportation Commission’s April agenda for final action.
The city would own FM 157 from its juncture with North Main Street at Mouser Way, south through downtown to Heritage Parkway/FM 917, a 2 ½-mile trek.
City officials say the good of the deal far outweighs the bad.
“Our main goal is to control downtown,” said city engineer Bart VanAmburgh. “This is the shortest segment of that road we need to accomplish that.”
The ownership swap is part of the Texas Department of Transportation’s “turnback program,” in which the agency offers to turn over control of sections of its state highway system that have outlived their usefulness. The voluntary deals, offered to cities in urban areas, allow the state to save maintenance costs. Cities, in addition to control, receive a lump sum to offset a portion of upkeep costs over a period.
Those amounts are negotiable. In Mansfield’s case, those talks continue.
In earlier discussions, city officials considered a larger turnback, which would have added both FM 157 and North Main Street going north from Mouser. For that scenario, the transportation agency offered about $325,000, which the city rejected as unreasonable.
David Boski, city transportation engineer, doesn’t regret it.
“If the money was right, we would have (taken the deal),” Boski said. “But at this point, we don’t see any benefit of acquiring the roadway.”
The immediate impact of the arrangement could be on trucks rumbling through downtown. With the city as the road’s owner, it can pass an ordinance declaring any part of that section off limits to trucks.
Officials say most of the 18-wheeler traffic appears to come from the west on FM 1187, which becomes Debbie Lane in town. But Debbie Lane is off limits to trucks, which prevents them from reaching U.S. 287. Instead, they turn south onto Main Street/Business 287 and head downtown to the industrial area or Heritage Parkway, where they can find U.S. 287 by turning east or continuing south.
The city could remap the truck routes without state permission.
Among the other benefits is the relative ease with which the city could design changes to Main Street or connect driveways to it, VanAmburgh said.
“Any improvements or connections to it now would only need approval by the city,” he said.
The city soon will be putting that benefit to use for redesigning South Main Street, from Broad Street to about Hunt Street. The city plans to make major improvements to the road to encourage development just south of the historic core of the downtown, Boski said.
That would accommodate the recently announced plans for a dedicated live music pavilion on the north side of the Central Fire Station.
Other downtown projects would benefit from local control of Main Street.
The City Council has tentatively approved a complex of 550 high-end apartments in the southwest corner of North Main and Newt Patterson Road, where it would serve as a gateway to downtown. The city also is planning a hike-and-bike trail from Town Park that would require restriping of a bridge to continue the route south to downtown.
Mayor David Cook welcomed the added local control.
“This is yet another big step in the revitalization of historic downtown Mansfield,” he said.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641