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College Station moves to add sidewalks to street

College Station moves to add sidewalks to street

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It's been more than six years since a woman and her husband were run down by a drunk driver on College Main Street - and the road still needs work to become safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, officials said Monday.

It's impossible to know if sidewalks would have prevented the accident that killed 27-year-old Heidi Hopps in June 2001. But officials in both Bryan and College Station, which each maintain portions of College Main, have said it's a priority to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

The accident that killed Hopps - and caused brain damage to her husband - occurred near Country Place Apartments in Bryan. Police said at the time they believed driver Chad Shead struck Heidi and James Hopps with his Chevrolet truck, knocking them out of their tennis shoes as they jogged along College Main. Shead was sentenced in 2002 to 10 years in prison.

The College Station City Council is scheduled Thursday to authorize city staff to spend more than $42,000 to buy easements along the corridor. Officials said it's the first step toward building 500-foot sidewalks from Louise Avenue to Cherry Street along both sides of College Main. The funds for the easements will come out of the city's Community Development Block Grant.

A construction contract has not yet been awarded, but it generally costs about $200,000 per mile to build a sidewalk, according to officials with a local engineering firm. The construction contract also will be paid out of College Station's block grant funds, said Public Works Director Mark Smith.

Smith said Monday he's not sure how long it will take to purchase easements from 10 different property owners along the corridor, but construction could begin by spring. It will take just a couple of months to build the sidewalks, he said.

"I'd say by this time of year next year we could be walking on those sidewalks," he said. "There is already a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic over there. I believe there would be more if we make it easier to get around. In Northgate there's a lot of student housing, and because of the access to the university it's a natural area for this kind of project."

The issue isn't on this week's Bryan City Council agenda but has been identified as a priority by the city's representatives who serve on Metropolitan Planning Organization committees. The MPO coordinates transportation projects throughout Brazos County.

A $2.2 million project to add bike lanes and sidewalks to Bryan's section of College Main was made a priority by the MPO in 2004, based on input from residents and city leaders. Officials said at the time it could take about 10 years for the project to come to fruition.

Just last month, the Bryan City Council recommended that the MPO seek funding to widen College Main from the College Station city limits to Old College Road.

Bryan's public works director was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Smith said Monday the College Station City Council's action later this week allows staff to begin negotiating the easement sales. The city is planning to offer market value for the 10 properties - with price tags that fall between $1,128 and $7,517.

"The land is right along the edge of the road," Smith said. "It doesn't move any structures or make any properties noncompliant. I think it actually improves the property."

The city also is planning to build sidewalks next year along Palmer and Stasney streets in the Northgate area, Smith said.

"We're really trying to be more pedestrian-friendly," he said.

n April Avison's e-mail address is april.avison@theeagle.com

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