New signal lights, other projects coming

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Traffic lights at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Front Street will soon sport the updated look of other black, antique-styled poles in Tyler's downtown, after the city's Half-Cent Sales Tax Corporation members voted Tuesday to recommend their replacement.

Traffic Engineer Peter Eng, who described the four-way intersection as the "gateway to downtown Tyler," said the city would like to replace the 1980-era metal traffic poles and one wooden pole currently at the intersection.

"There have been 14 of the black-fluted poles replaced downtown so far — we would like to upgrade this one so that it is like the others," Eng told the corporation members.

The signal upgrade is expected to help traffic flow at the intersection and will enhance the appearance of the intersection in accordance with the Destination Downtown initiative of the Tyler 21 plan.

The cost is expected to be $96,541 to replace the four poles needed at that intersection, and the cost will be borne by the city's half-cent sales tax. The city will contract with Striping Technology for installation.

Many of the city's capital improvement projects are funded through the half-cent sales tax program, approved by voters in 1995 as a way to fund capital infrastructure projects that enhance the community and attract economic development opportunities, Susan Guthrie, city spokeswoman, said during an interview last week.

The goal of the half-cent sales tax is to lower the tax rate, attract businesses, and build infrastructure, including parks. In November 1995, voters elected to adopt the One-Half Cent Sales and Use Tax within the city of Tyler for public improvements to include public safety, streets, traffic control, airport, water utilities, parks and drainage for the promotion and development of new and expanded business enterprise as allowed in Texas law, according to the city website.
The engineering department currently manages $13 million in capital projects each year. The Half Cent Sales and Use Tax generates between $11 million and $12 million each year, City Engineer Carter Delaney said Tuesday. The costs for most of these capital projects are projected into the next 10 years.

The city is also a wholesale provider of water to Whitehouse and Walnut Grove, which generates revenue for Tyler, Ms. Guthrie said.

There are about 222 capital improvements currently on the city's 2012-13 work plan. All these projects have been suggested by residents, Delaney said.

The most important issue to Tyler residents has been the improvement of traffic conditions, particularly the east-west connections through the city, Ms. Guthrie said. The construction of the $16.4 million Earl Campbell Parkway, which opened in August, connects Texas Highway 155 to West Loop 323, and was funded by the city's half-cent sales tax.

Other top projects funded by the half-cent sales tax include the Cumberland Road extension, a downtown parking garage and the reconstruction of a 20-year-old airport runway.

"The projects are ranked and scored by their adherence to the principles of Tyler 21," Ms. Guthrie said. The cost for projects, which is usually paid in increments, can fluctuate with the economy, she said.

Contractors often place lower bids on projects when economic times are tough, Ms. Guthrie said.

The Tyler 21 Plan addresses issues such as downtown revitalization, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation and housing and neighborhoods.

If the city receives a grant for a certain project, that project is moved up in the rankings, Ms. Guthrie said.

The Half-Cent Sales Tax Corporation also approved recommending that the city spend $177,548 for an environmental assessment required for relocation of the Instrument Landing System and runway improvements to airport runway 4/22.


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