Virtual public meeting to discuss Bus Rapid Transit project

By Serena M. Stevenson

Waco Transit System (WTS) is set to complete the preliminary engineering and environmental review process for the proposed 13-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. Completing this process advances the development of Waco’s first BRT project to provide safe, reliable, and efficient transit service.

Over the last 10 months, WTS and its consultant have been refining the BRT station design and conducting evaluations to confirm the location for 14 proposed BRT stations. As part of this process, WTS continues to seek public input to help inform the project.

Community members are invited to participate in a live virtual public meeting that will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 17, to learn about the BRT project and share feedback. During this meeting the project team will present the final recommendations for the station locations, provide an update on the station design, and share details about next steps.

In light of restrictions on public gatherings, this public meeting is being offered online and via phone, rather than in-person. Visit WacoBRTopenhouse.net to access the online link and/or phone ID.

The information that will be presented during this live virtual meeting and a recording of the meeting will be made available online at WacoBRTopenhouse.net.

Community members interested in providing feedback to help inform the BRT project are encouraged to call the project comment line at 844-922-6278; email the project at [email protected]; and/or complete the online feedback form available at wacobrtopenhouse.net/feedback. The public comment period for this phase of this project will close Friday, July 2.

About the Waco BRT Project: The proposed 13-mile BRT project that is in development would provide buses every 15-minutes during peak service hours, including extended service hours to 10 p.m. and service on Sundays to offer safe, reliable, and efficient transit service. The purpose for implementing BRT service in Waco is to offer residents enhanced mobility and to provide improved access to jobs, medical and social services, and educational facilities. The proposed BRT route would also provide better and more efficient transfers to other routes operated by Waco Transit System. The BRT project is now at the next phase in the development process which involves preliminary engineering and an environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. For more information about the Waco BRT project, visit the project webpage at waco-texas.com/transit/BRT.

Serena M. Stevenson is general manager of Waco Transit System.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco’s ‘4th on the Brazos’ returning this year

By Megan Davis

The City of Waco’s annual “4th on the Brazos” celebration is set to return Sunday, July 4, at Touchdown Alley, next to Baylor University’s McLane Stadium. Admission is free, and the community is invited to enjoy the festivities with food trucks, live music, family fun, and fireworks.

Gates will open at 6 p.m., and the fireworks will kick off at about 9:15 p.m. The fireworks will be shot above the river, between Touchdown Alley and the Ferrell Center. They will be visible from both sides of the river, the Ferrell Center, and areas around Baylor campus.

Bag check stations will be located at all entrances. Coolers with drinks and snacks are allowed, but glass bottles and containers are prohibited. Extra hand washing stations will be located throughout the grounds, and guests are encouraged to practice social distancing.

Additional details, including an event schedule and artist announcement, will be available soon. For updates, visit brazosnightswaco.com or follow Brazos Nights on Facebook or Instagram.

Megan Davis works the City of Waco’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Drinking Water Week: Water there when you need it

Drinking Water Week offers consumers an opportunity to recognize the hardworking people performing various roles ensuring tap water is “There When You Need It.” Drinking Water Week is May 2-8.

The City of Waco and partners throughout North America are observing Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role tap water plays in daily life, the infrastructure that is required to carry it to and from homes and businesses, and the important work of water professionals “behind the scenes.”

The City of Waco Water Utility Services Department’s staff of 150 water professionals is proud to serve the Waco community, ensuring the continuous delivery of safe, high quality drinking water to all customers.

Whether an engineer designing a capital project, an operator ensuring the safety and quality of drinking water, or a member of a pipe crew maintaining the infrastructure in our community, water professionals work around the clock to ensure tap water is there when you need it.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to make evident the hard work performed by the people in the water sector,” said American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance. “The work they are performing throughout the pandemic, often sacrificing time with their family, is nothing short of heroic. I am proud to be associated with them.”

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been proud of our employees here at the City of Waco,” said City Manager, Bradley Ford. “Particularly during the recent winter storm, Water Utility Services staff did an incredible job, working day and night in extreme circumstances, to keep our water system functioning. That work will be remembered for years to come.”

To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools, and others throughout North America and beyond encourage consumers to learn more about the importance of water and water infrastructure, especially in times of crisis.

About Drinking Water Week

For several decades, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Free materials for download and additional information about Drinking Water Week are available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

Waco hires new assistant city manager

City of Waco News Release

Waco City Manager Bradley Ford announces the hiring of Lisa Blackmon as assistant city manager. Blackmon currently serves as acting city manager in Manteca, Calif. She will relocate to Texas along with her husband, Michael, and two sons and is expected to start in this role by mid-June.

Lisa Blackmon

The management team was intentional about finding someone with the experience to lead the city’s organization-wide efforts on outstanding customer experience and customer service. Blackmon stood out to the Waco team based on her years of experience managing customer service driven businesses, such as wineries and high-end restaurants in the Napa Valley. She transitioned to municipal work in 2011 and has worked for the cities of Napa and Manteca. Blackmon has served in a variety of local government roles such as assistant city manager, deputy director of emergency services, director of legislative services, and deputy city clerk/assistant public information officer.

Ford said: “Lisa really stood apart in the search process with her unique background and combination of experience in both local government administration and the hospitality and tourism industry. I believe she will bring a creative, thoughtful, and responsive approach to leading Waco’s tourism and quality of life focused departments. I am excited for her and her family to join us in Waco.”

Blackmon said: “I learned about this position on a trip to visit family in Waco, and I really fell in love with the city and all it has to offer. There are so many great things happening in Waco, and I am looking forward to joining the team and driving forward customer service and overall local and visitor experiences within the city.”

The City of Waco organization is excited to welcome Lisa to Waco. She will oversee the city’s tourism and quality-of-life focused departments: Parks and Recreation, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco Regional Airport, te Waco Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, and Cameron Park Zoo.

City of Waco responds to winter weather

By City of Waco Public Information

CITY OPERATING WITH ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL THROUGH WEDNESDAY

Citizens are encouraged to please stay off the roads, conserve energy and be safe!  Protect your family (pets included), pipes and plants.

CLOSURES

The following City facilities and operations will be closed through Wednesday, February 17th. We’ll update with changes as soon as they are made available.

Cameron Park Zoo, Cottonwood Creek Golf Course, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, all branches of the Waco-McLennan County Library, Waco Mammoth National Monument, all community centers (except identified Warming Centers) Cobbs Recycling Center will be closed Wednesday and then evaluated for future opening.

WARMING CENTERS

The City has warming centers currently open at locations around town for residents without power to get warm.

You may stay overnight if needed, COVID-19 restrictions will be in place (masks required), power is currently available, but there is a possibility of power outage at any point. Please bring your own snacks, blankets and warm clothes as needed.

Please drive safely and share with those who may need it – more locations to be evaluated.

·         South Waco Community Center (2815 Speight)

·         Highland Baptist Church (3014 Maple Avenue)

·         Dewey Community Center (925 N. 9th Street)

·         St. Alban’s Episcopal Church (enter from 2900 W Waco Drive)

TRANSPORTATION TO WARMING CENTERS

Waco Transit System is providing rides to warming centers for those in need. Please call (254) 405-4247 and they will make arrangements to pick you up safely. Available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (warming centers only, please).

TRASH PICK-UP

Solid Waste Services has made the decision to cancel residential & commercial collection for Wednesday (2/17). We are evaluating when we’ll make up missed collection days and appreciate your patience. We will notify through our Waco Curbside App and post all updates.  DOWNLOAD THE APP — For immediate alerts affecting your household trash service, download the Waco Curbside Services App available on Google Play and Apple App Store.

COVID VACCINATIONS

Persons who missed their appointments to receive the COVID vaccine last week and those who are due for their second dose are being called to be given an appointment for this Friday and Saturday.  After those are scheduled we will contact those in the 1A and 1B phases of the DSHS directive who are signed up on our waitlist.  We hope to hear about our next shipment of vaccines soon.  When we do, we will continue scheduling from the waitlist.  

COVID Testing

The Texas Department of Emergency Management has closed public COVID testing sites until February 18, 2021.

Urgent Need to Conserve Energy

Demand for electricity continues to be at unprecedented levels. Conservation efforts are extremely important during this historic winter storm as it continues.  All residents and businesses should to continue to conserve energy to help maintain service for our most critical human needs customers.

Conservation Efforts:

  • Lower your thermostat to at least 68 degrees.
  • Businesses should minimize energy usage as much as possible.
  • Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees.
  • Never use an oven or a gas stovetop to heat your home.
  • Unplug electronic devices and turn off lights that are not in use.
  • Reduce shower time and avoid baths.
  • Refrain from using large appliances like your washer, dryer, oven, and dishwasher for the next few days.
  • When in use, limit opening the oven door to prevent wasted energy.
  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.
  • Avoid using your natural gas fireplace, if possible.
  • If you have a pool, do not use the pool heater. Instead, run your pool pump during the coldest part of the day to circulate the water and prevent freezing.

CITY UPDATES:

PUBLIC WORKS: Street/ Traffic

·         Treat dark intersections without signage as four-way stops.

·         Due to outages on various traffic signals, road conditions, and long-term nature of the event, some lights will be in red flash around town when lights malfunction.

·         Streets remains on-call all and will continue to be.

·         Supervisors have been monitoring bridges and street segments routinely and will continue.

·         Trucks and crews are working around the clock to sand Waco streets.

TRANSIT

·         Fixed routes and Para-transit services are suspended.

Municipal Court

·         Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Solid Waste

·         Trash collection for residential and commercial customers is cancelled through Wednesday as we evaluate when to continue and make up the days missed.

·         Cobb’s Recycling Center is closed on Wednesday.

·         The Landfill remains open with limited staffing.

Water Utility Services

·         Staff is expecting an increase in water line breaks and an increase in calls for emergency shut-offs because of broken private plumbing lines. Staff is ready to respond to the changing conditions by bringing in additional crews and call center staff as needed.

Parks & Recreation

·         Tree crew on standby to address issues for any trees affected by the weather.

Development Services

·         Inspection staff will contact anyone whose inspection will need to be rescheduled.

·         Inspectors will be on call for any emergency inspections needed for gas/power reconnects/hookups.

Additional Information and Resources

·         Information on outages – ONCOR

·         Report an outage -or- call 888.313.4747

·         Please do not travel, but if you must here are some tips from TXDOT for winter travel and driving safety: https://www.txdot.gov/driver/weather/winter-travel.html

·         To report a dangerous road condition please call the non-emergency dispatch line 254-750-7500

·         To report a water main break or loss of water you can call 254-299-2489. If the issue is due to frozen or busted pipes at your house, please call a plumber.

City manager recommending veteran Houston Assistant Chief Sheryl Victorian as Waco’s next police chief

By City of Waco Staff

Waco City Manager Bradley Ford announced Monday he is recommending Sheryl Victorian to be the city’s next Chief of Police. Victorian served for 27 years in the Houston Police Department rising to the rank of Assistant Chief. The recommendation goes to the city council on Tuesday, Feb. 16.  If approved, Victorian will be Waco’s first female and first Black police chief.

“The search for a new chief took five months and included 43 applications from candidates in 17 states,” said City Manager Bradley Ford. “Sheryl’s depth of hands-on management experience, her educational background and her support for innovative programs all stood out.”  Ford adds, “Sheryl shared our community’s vision for a leader who embraces continuous improvement, community policing and a commitment to serving and protecting all of our citizens.”

Victorian was one of four finalists for the position. The interview process included input from the city staff as well as community shareholder panels.

Victorian earned a doctorate degree in Administration of Justice from Texas Southern University and holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from The University of Houston and a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs, also from Texas Southern University. 

She began her law enforcement career as a police cadet in Houston in 1993. As she rose through the ranks of the department, Victorian served in or supervised virtually every major unit giving her a wide range of experience and expertise including extensive work undercover.

Victorian is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and numerous nationally recognized leadership programs. She holds a Texas Master Peace Officer’s license and has received numerous awards and commendations over her career with Houston PD.

“It is a privilege and honor to have my name forwarded to the city council,” said Victorian. “Maintaining the trust of the community, adopting and improving our department to meet the changing needs and demands of policing and keeping our officers and citizens safe are my objectives from day one if council approves my selection,” said Victorian. “It would be an honor to lead the department and I look forward to working proactively to keep Waco a great community to work, live and raise a family.”

The Waco Police Association was represented in the evaluation process by President, Ken Reeves. When notified of the recommendation, Reeves said “The Waco Police Association is happy to welcome its new Chief, Sheryl Victorian. Her reputation for fair and experienced leadership is well known within her current Department. We are eager to see what her vision will bring to the Waco Police Department and our community.”

If confirmed by the Waco City Council on February 16,  Victorian will start as Waco chief in early March.

Price helps residents connect with city & sees ‘best’ future

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Caitlin Babcock

At the heart of what Galen Price, Waco interim assistant city manager, does every day is listening to the people of Waco. He listens to citizens and to business owners, to praises and to complaints. This listening then shapes his priorities. 

Galen Price, Waco Interim Assistant City Manager

Price sees his role as serving the needs of the community. Because of this, he views it as very important that citizens speak up about their needs. Listening to the community allows him and his team to enforce the policies that are working well and to know where the city is falling short. 

“Just being involved so you can hear what’s going on, that gives you an opportunity to have a voice in what’s being considered and provide feedback on how it’s being viewed by you as a citizen in a community,” Price says. 

According to Price, there are numerous ways for citizens of Waco to make their voices heard. He suggests that residents attend city council meetings, which are currently held online due to the pandemic. Price also suggests citizens attend neighborhood association meetings or start their own association if their neighborhood doesn’t have one. 

Price became interim assistant city manager in August, after Deidra Emerson, who previously held that role, was promoted to deputy city manager, according to a 2019 article in the Waco Tribune-Herald. “It was an opportunity that you dream of and just couldn’t pass up,” Price said. 

Price has spent 21 years in municipal government work, since he graduated from the University of North Texas in Fort Worth.  He has been in Waco since 2017. Before coming to Waco, he worked on  housing projects in Irving. Previous to becoming interim city manager, Price worked as the city’s director of housing and community development. While in this position, he worked with Waco’s Family Abuse Center and Mission Waco, a Christian organization that addresses systemic issues with poverty.

Price says Waco is making significant investments into its infrastructure, economy, and housing. He says that even before home designers Chip and Joanna Gaines brought Waco into the national spotlight, good things were going on in the city. 

“I can one day envision Waco being one of the places that’s considered one of the best places to live in the nation,” Price says. 

Price said he loves Waco because although it is developing, it still has a small-town feel. That feel is something that differs from his large hometown of Fort Worth. 

“Relocating here from the metroplex, I enjoy the camaraderie and the way people make you feel at home here,” Price says. “As we continue to grow, let’s do our best to try to keep that feel.” 

Caitlin Babcock is a sophomore at Baylor University from Colorado. She is majoring in international studies and double minoring in Spanish and journalism. She hopes to find a career in international journalism. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

City council election & application dates announced

By City of Waco Public Information Office

The General Election for City of Waco council members for Districts II, IV, and V, will be held Saturday, May 1. The first day to file for a place on the ballot is Wednesday, Jan. 13. The last  day to file is Friday, Feb. 12, by 5 p.m. 

Applications for a place on the ballot are filed at the City Secretary’s Office Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Due to COVID-19 concerns and regulations, the city secretary is scheduling appointments for in-person services. Please call 254-750-5750 to schedule an appointment.  

Physical address for filing applications in person: 

City Secretary’s Office First Floor – City Hall 

300 Austin Ave., Waco, TX 76701 

To mail an application for a place on the ballot. Application must be notarized before filing.

Esmeralda Hudson, TRMC, CPM 

City Secretary 

PO Box 2570 

Waco, TX 76702-2570 

Applications for a place on the ballot can be emailed to [email protected] and must be notarized before filing. 

Applications and candidate packets are available online on the City of Waco Election web page or by calling the City Secretary’s Office at 254-750-5750 to schedule an appointment.  

For more information contact Esmeralda Hudson, city secretary, at 254-750-5750.

Green Resolutions for the New Year 2021

By Anna Dunbar

2020 is drawing to a close. Whew! What a year. Time to start thinking about a new year, a new start, and new resolutions for a greener year!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Recycle that live Christmas Tree! Keep Waco Beautiful is hosting its annual “Chipping of the Green” Christmas tree recycling event on January 9th at Paul Tyson Field from 10-3pm. Bring your tree and watch how Waco Parks and Recreation mulches the tree.
  1. Live Christmas trees can also be left at residential curbside during green weeks in January for collection and mulching. Green weeks in January are the 4th-8th and 19th-22nd.
  1. Start recycling at curbside! Waco residents with cart residential trash service can request one or two blue recycling and/or green yard waste carts for no extra charge! Complete a request form on Waco-texas.com or our smartphone app Waco Curbside Services. You can also call (254) 299-2612.
  1. Recycle right! Please do not put Styrofoam, glass, plastic bags, plastics 3-7, or take-out food containers in your blue cart! Got questions? Check out the free smartphone app Waco Curbside Services.
  1. Speaking of Styrofoam, on December 12 there will be a Styrofoam recycling drop-off event by Waco Friends of Climate.

TIME: 9 AM until 1 PM

LOCATION:  parking lot in front of Ocean Buffet, at the corner of Valley Mills and Waco Drives. 

NOTES: Please wear masks and stay in your vehicle; volunteers will remove the material from trunk and back seats.  Styrofoam cups and food containers are accepted, as well as larger blocks and molded pieces. Peanuts cannot be accepted.  Please clean the Styrofoam and place small pieces in a bag.  Please arrive early, as our truck may reach capacity. The service is free. Questions:  [email protected] .    

  1. Go to the Cobbs Center! Many people have a lot of extra recycling during the holidays. Boxes, glass or plastic bottles and aluminum cans abound during the holidays! Waco residents can also recycle big items (such as electronics and appliances) at the Cobbs Recycle Center. The Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM until 5 PM and closed on Sunday and Monday. Go to waco-texas.com or call (254) 751-8536 to ask questions.
  1. Remember “Only Rain Down the Drain!” Please avoid putting anything (leaves, grass clippings, litter) into storm drains.
  1. Properly dispose of cooking oil! Small quantities of cooking oil can be mixed with kitty litter, doubled bagged, and placed in your trash cart. Please do not pour cooking oil or grease down the drain. You can also properly dispose of the cooking oil or grease at 5 stations located around the city; one location is at the Cobbs Center. For more information go to Waco-texas.com or call 299-CITY (2489) between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  1. Join the Litter Challenge!  If each person picks up and throws away just one piece of litter a day, they will have put 45 pounds of litter in its place by the end of the year.
  1. Check the solid waste calendar! Don’t forget the blue carts and green carts go at the curb on alternating weeks, never together! If you have questions, call (254) 299-2612.
  1. Take gently used items to resale or thrift stores instead of just throwing them away. Or, have a garage sale! Don’t forget to get a city permit!
  1. Finally, get involved in organizations that “do good” in our city! The wonderful organizations, clean litter, collect donations, recycle and more! Together we can do more!

Anna Dunbar is the solid waste administrator for the City of Waco Solid Waste Services. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a Baylor University alum who works at Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. Anna is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

Civic Insights: The Why of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

(City council, school board, planning commission, county commissioners – these groups and several others represent us.  They do the day to day work of running our community. It is our responsibility to keep informed about their work so that we can help them represent us effectively.  “Civic Insights” by Jeffrey Vitarius is a regular feature of Act Locally Waco.  Its purpose is to help us understand decisions that shape our community so that we can participate effectively as informed, engaged residents of Waco. – ALW)  

By Jeffrey Vitarius

We hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving and thought it might be good to start back up with a topic we find particularly interesting, bus rapid transit (BRT).

Next Thursday (December 10th, 2020)  at 6:00 pm Waco Transit, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and AECOM Technical Services  are hosting a virtual meeting  to gather public input on station locations and designs for the BRT project. AECOM also recently provided updates to the City Council and MPO on the progress of the project.  Let’s take a look at why this project is being considered and what stage of the process we are in now.

Way back in 2013-4, the City of Waco commissioned an Economic Development Strategic Plan from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. The study is generally called the Upjohn Report.  Unlike a standard economic development strategy that focuses purely on the “general economic performance of the area,” the City “called for a plan to also reduce poverty, increase labor force participation, and increase area income.” That is, rather than focus on economic growth in and of itself, the plan also focused on how that growth might be made equitable for the people of Waco. This focus on equitable development rather than just any development remains an important goal of the City.

In the process of drafting their report, the Upjohn team interviewed ninety individuals, asking them (in part) about what challenges they see to finding and retaining employment. The result, “transportation was overwhelmingly cited as the most prominent barrier to finding and keeping a job.” In 2018, about 8% of Wacoans got to work by a means other than a car. At that time approximately 29% of Wacoan households had no car or 1 car. The average household size in Waco is about 2.5 people meaning that having one car could mean a household is still reliant on a non-car means of getting to work.

Although walking or cycling remain valuable commuting options for folks (your author does so whenever he can), needing to rely on your feet or your bike makes you vulnerable to long distances and poor weather (especially August heat). Given these challenges, it is critical for those in Waco who do not have ready access to a car that public transit gets people where they need to go reliably and as swiftly as possible.

The current Waco transit system is configured as a “spoke and hub.” In this design bus routes extend out from the City core to residential neighborhoods, job centers, and service locations before returning Downtown. The routes out and back are the “spokes” with the Downtown Transit Center as the “hub.” The transit map below shows how the various routes converge at the transit center downtown before spanning out across the city.

 (Map 1)  

This configuration has its challenges. The spoke and hub setup means that to get from one side of town to the other, an individual has to transfer at the “hub,” lengthening travel times. Additionally, the variety of routes mean that each route can only be run once an hour (in the case of East Waco the route runs varying directions based on what hour of the day it is). 

BRT may be the solution to these issues. The BRT would run through the middle of the city extending from Woodway through Downtown Waco and on to Belmead and Lacy Lakeview. The BRT would make fewer stops and be timed to traffic. This would, theoretically, reduce the delays caused by passengers entering and exiting the bus as well as the delays caused by sitting in traffic. The goal of such a system would be to maximize the time the bus is in motion, therefore reducing travel times. It is also hoped that such a system would generate more frequent bus service and bus services that extend more into weekends and evenings (an important factor when considering whether folks can get to work when they need to).

In 2018, the City received a feasibility study from AECOM Technical Services that looked at the potential system overall as well as a number of route, technology, and service operation options. The study recommended (after substantial public input) a route that ran from US 84 to New Road to Franklin Avenue to Taylor Street and Hillsboro Drive before taking US 84 to Loop 340.  On May 1, 2018 the City Council approved the recommended route. Below is the most recent map of the proposed route.

Since then, the City, the MPO, and AECOM have begun the process of seeking federal funding for the project. In July of 2019, pre-award authority was granted that allows the City to begin pursuing projected development costs before receiving a formal award. Under this authorization the City sought services for preliminary engineering and environmental review.  We are in the middle of that process now.

Preliminary engineering (think of this as preliminary technical design) needs to be completed to understand the final costs of the project and pursue the funding needed to cover those costs. Environmental review is required to make sure the project will not unduly damage Waco’s environment. Throughout this part of the process there are three different periods of public input planned. The first passed in October, when AECOM sought to reintroduce the project to Wacoans and update them on the project approach. The second is the meeting coming up on December 10.  This one will focus on where stations will be and how they will function. Both of these aspects can have a huge impact on cost and operations down the line. Finally, in mid-February it is anticipated that the final results for this phase of the project will be brought before the public for review.

Other Interesting Items from the Agenda (to me)

  • Over the last two meetings City Council has received information regarding a Municipal Settings Designation (MSD). In short, this would reduce a hurdle to development in the city’s core by prohibiting the future use of groundwater as potable (safe to drink). Without a Municipal Settings Designation each property owner would have to deal with testing and remediating groundwater contamination before development which can slow projects in an area where the city provides water to all properties anyhow.
  • The City and WISD are working on a partnership to provide all WISD students with e-cards that would grant them access to the library’s substantial e-book catalogue.
  • The J.H. Hines Elementary Sidewalks project continues with the city pursuing $101,918.37 in property acquisitions to account for right of way needs.

Meeting Basics

  • City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Work session – 3:00 pm / Business session – 6:00pm (there have been two meetings since our last post)
  • To watch the recorded session click here (City of Waco Cable Channel, wccc.tv)
  • For the full agenda click here (11/17) or here (12/01)
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here (11/17) or here (12/01)

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and spearheaded its Vision 2025 process. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected]for more information.