City Council ready to vote on Downtown Master Plan
The Round Rock City Council is scheduled to make its first reading vote on the Downtown Master Plan at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 10. The City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission held a joint work session on Monday, June 7, to discuss specific aspects of the plan.
The Council held a public hearing on the Plan at its May 13 meeting. At that time, some Councilmembers had questions about some specific elements of the Plan so Mayor Alan McGraw suggested Councilmembers meet with staff to discuss specific issues prior to the June 7 joint work session. Meetings have included City Manager Jim Nuse, Planning Director Jim Stendebach, Chief of Public Works Operations Tom Word and Project Manager Will Hampton.
Below are the main points/issues discussed in the meetings, as well as at Monday's work session.
Traffic, street network, parking and walkability
Mays Street recommendations – A number of Councilmembers have expressed concerns about traffic patterns and flows downtown in general, and, specifically, about the recommendation to reconfigure Mays Street from four lanes (two each north and south) to three lanes (one each north and south and one continuous left turn lane). Tom Word explained that would improve traffic flow on Mays by improving the capacity of the intersection at Mays and Main. Allowing concurrent left turns would result in moving more cars through the intersection in a shorter period of time. Tom presented a detailed explanation at Monday’s meeting.
Here is a helpful graphic
(PDF), prepared by Gary Schatz, P.E., our transportation subconsultant, last year that shows how Levels of Service at the Main-Mays intersection are likely to improve with the reconfiguration of Mays Street. Levels of Service are scored A through F, with A being no delays and F being prolonged delays. As graphic shows, the overall Level of Service for the intersection improves to a C from an E in the morning peak times, and to a C from an F in the afternoon peak.
The proposed changes to Mays Street were covered in this blog post
last year. That post includes a link to Gary's full analysis.
When Tom explained the Level of Service graphic at Monday's joint work session, it prompted the question of how can we get that intersection to an A or B? Tom noted that in urban environments, a Level of Service D is generally considered acceptable. To get to an A or B would likely require the City to purchase the businesses and properties along Mays Street to widen the road to five or six lanes, Tom said.
Councilmembers also asked where Mays Street would taper from four lanes to three. Tom believes the best places would be north of Brushy Creek bridge (but south of Sunset), and north of Logan. Tom also noted we plan to test the reconfiguration by re-restriping Mays Steet before we make physical improvements as a way to gauge how successful it would be without having to make a major investment.
Road network – Councilmember John Moman raised a pair of issues on traffic/roads: First, he believes an east-west arterial along creek (as shown on map of “Street Hierarchy” on Page 126,) could help divert cut through traffic from Liberty and provide a catalyst for creekside development. Second, street sections shown on pages 127-130 should be more clearly labeled as “recommended” or “examples.”
Mayor Pro Tem Clifford felt Sheppard Street should be labeled as a “secondary street” on the Street Hierarchy map since it is now a Catalytic Project.
Walkability, parking – Councilmember Rufus Honeycutt had questions about walkability. The cities he visited in California (Los Gatos, Palo Alto and Mountain View) had cars primarily circulating on the perimeter of their downtown, which made it easy for pedestrians. Here, we’ve got Round Rock Avenue, Mays and Main bisecting the area. Pages 80-81 in the Plan present short-term and long-term recommendations for parking reform downtown. Tom noted that, like in Southwest Downtown, the various streetscaping projects recommended in the Plan will add a significant number of on-street parking spaces.
At Monday's work session, Mayor McGraw and Councilmember Whitfield both mentioned that Fort Collins, Colo., has major streets that bisect its downtown, which is thriving. Our Plan suggests a "park-once" strategy with parking garages located at key sectors of the Plan area. Honeycutt noted that we need to begin identifying locations for future park-once garages to complement the existing garage next to City Hall and the parking garage and transit center currently under construction in Southwest Downtown.
Catalytic Projects/Programming Document
Phasing of projects – Mayor Pro Tem Clifford asked about phasing of capital improvements, because we have such a large Plan area. Both Clifford and Councilmember Carlos Salinas felt like focusing improvements in one key area first would be the best way to get results, as opposed to spreading dollars around the entire Plan area.
Programming Document – For each Catalytic Project, the City will develop and maintain a dynamic “programming document” that will include the following types of information:
-- A critical path timeline, with milestones
-- Zoning, infrastructure and public space needs
-- Potential sources of funding, including identification of anticipated timing
-- Summaries of input from developers regarding which public investments and other actions are likely to spur economic activity
The Programming Document will become a key planning and decision making tool for Councilmembers. Our plan is to fully develop the Programming Document after the Plan is approved by the City Council.
Marketing – Councilmember Salinas asked about a marketing plan and branding elements. He felt a gateway at Mays Street at Brushy Creek would be crucial early branding element for the area, as so many cars come into downtown via Mays Street. Councilmember Salinas said a market effort should run parallel to planning and construction of infrastructure improvements. Page 51 provides an overview of marketing and branding needs for activating downtown. Wayfinding is key element covered here. Locations for gateway signs are on page 37, with illustrations of possible designs on pages 38-39.
Timing – Councilmember Moman asked how downtown development proposals would be handled during the period of time between Plan adoption and Form Based Code adoption. Jim Stendebach said existing zoning rules would apply, but that PUDs could also be developed if zoning changes are requested.