Cyclists raise required money amid new worries over Toll 49 traffic

Cyclists raise required money amid new worries over Toll 49 traffic

TYLER (KYTX) - Cyclists are one step closer to gaining permanent access to parts of Toll 49.   They have raised the $60,000 required by the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority to pay for safety improvements on the road.

Specifically, the money would help pay for striping and signs on the parts of the road that cyclists would be allowed to use. Those stripes would create a four foot bike lane in the shoulder.  Both NET RMA and cyclists have agreed this is what's needed to keep everyone on this toll road safe. 


Back in March, the NET RMA board passed a resolution, saying that discussions about bikes on Toll 49 could continue if the biking community could raise $60,000 for future road safety improvements.


"I'm still shaking my head at how much public support we've had for this. I'm amazed that we've raised this much money," says Cyclist Tyler Simpson, who is thrilled to be moving forward.

"It's actually pretty exciting to see a partnership like this between private and public." Simpson says. "It's just a great deal. I think it's the only way things like this are going to get done in the future with budget shortfalls on all levels of government."

He's been meeting with NET RMA's interim executive director, Everett Owen about what's next.
Owen says that includes "preparing plans and specifications for the signing and striping of the bicycle lane and then put that out for bids."

However, now there's a new issue concerning the NET RMA: higher than expected traffic numbers on Toll 49.

"There's more cars there than we originally anticipated," Owen says.

In March, NET RMA projected the entire toll road would see about 16,000 transactions a day.
However, recent numbers show in May, there were about 25,000 transactions a day and 31,000 on Saturdays. Owen didn't think he'd see those numbers until 2020!

"So potentially that is an issue," he says.

It's an issue Simpson and the rest of the cycling community hopes can be put to rest with improved safety measures.

"There can always be problems," Simpson says, "but Lord-willing they won't, and if we go with their guidelines on striping and safety signage hopefully it will work well."

He knows it's a controversial issue but says Toll 49 is one of the safest options for cyclists.

"The toll road is a very crucial connector for commuters and the wide shoulder makes it much safer say than 346 if you had to go further south or Grande if you had to go further north," Simpson says.

His hope is that things continue to go as smoothly as they have been. 

At the NET RMA meeting on July 9, board members will vote to move forward with the engineering plan. It could then take up to 4 months to send out bids and choose a company. If everything is approved, and all goes according to plan, we could see this striping finished later this year.

Here's another potential roadblock: the Texas Transportation Commission may be voting June 27 to ban bicycles from all TxDot controlled toll roads in Texas.  That would not ban cyclists on Toll 49  because its controlled by NET RMA - but if it passes, NET RMA could choose to follow suit. As of now, it plans to allow cyclists to continue riding on the road.


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