STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
What began as an idea for a gateway arch to welcome people to Marble Falls’ downtown area took quite the turn during the May 21 regular City Council meeting.
A proposed arch to cross Third Street, welcoming visitors to downtown, turned into discussion of a possible pedestrian bridge to cross US 281.
An arch structure estimated to cost between $200,000-$250,000 in the Parks Phase 1A project came back with just one bid at twice the estimate: $498,205.
“Needless to say, when we received one bid of double that amount, we were a bit surprised by that,” Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss told the council.
The City Council voted 4-0 to reject the lone bid (members Celia Merrill, Richard Westerman, and Dave Rhodes were absent).
In its place, staff presented an idea for a structure that could welcome people to the city and provide a service.
“If we’re going through trouble of this magnitude, it costs more yes, but could cross pedestrians over (US 281),” said Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel.
Erin Burks, Downtown Coordinator, said the idea came after hearing about safety concerns. Police Chief Mark Whitacre, Burks said, mentioned the city has had two pedestrians hit by vehicles on the highways in recent years as they tried to cross the road. Business owners near downtown and US 281 also said they regularly see visitors struggle to cross back and forth across the highway.
“It’s about increased safety,” Burks said.
City Council directed staff to explore the option of placing a pedestrian bridge somewhere across the highway on Second Street. Early staff cost estimates for a possible structure are near $2 million. Some of that would come from money budgeted for the proposed arch out of Phase 1A bonds, and other funding sources could come from other sources within the city or outside sources.
The east side of US 281 has had an increase in foot traffic in recent years. It took another jump with the addition of Bear King Brewery opening earlier this year. The Blue Bonnet Cafe and Marble Falls Visitors Center are staples of the area, and two other retail stores (REDID and Birdie’s Market) have contributed to more traffic east of the highway.
Kraenzel and Burks said a potential pedestrian bridge would have to meet required federal standards for height and construction, with location of traffic lights at the intersection also taken into consideration.
After staff researches the topic further, another presentation could be brought before City Council, however a date is not known.