Debate Will Continue on Briarcrest Traffic Tie-Ups

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It's among the busiest streets in Bryan. FM 1179 -- better known as Briarcrest -- is all but maxed out when it comes to traffic capacity.

TxDOT has been working up plans to try to alleviate the travel woes. But property owners will have another chance to weigh in.

There was the possibility the city council could have taken action on TxDOT's recommendation at Tuesday night's regular meeting. But following a presentation by TxDOT and city staff during workshop, the council decided to push the issue back to their next regular meeting on January 23. That will include a public hearing for residents, business owners and travelers to weigh in on the changes.

TxDOT's plan calls for raised medians for much of the distance on Briarcrest between Kent Street and Highway 6, along with additional left and right turn lanes. Computer models shown to the council Tuesday show what they project to be a smoother drive, along with a 50 percent reduction of accidents.

"As we try to improve that, hopefully we can improve that situation and that people can make it home safely and to work safely and do so in a quicker time frame, I think people would be in support of that," said Bryan Wood with TxDOT.

Some 42,000 vehicles travel that stretch each day right now, and that number is expected to grow.

"The more people you put on a roadway, if they try to turn left through that traffic at peak hours, obviously there's going to be conflicts and accidents," said Wood, "so either way, we would be looking at adding a median, whether adding capacity or improving the turning capacity.">

Currently, TxDOT calculates a 101-second delay for drivers going from 29th Street to 6 on Briarcrest. But with the proposed changes, delays drop to 13 seconds according to projections.

But the catch to critics is the reduction of left turns. While it may prevent accidents, some are concerned that businesses would suffer. That includes Councilmember Mike Southerland, who asked that another public hearing be held.

"I've had friends who have gone out of business because of some of those left turn blocks," Southerland said, "and the folks who were at the meeting on June 20 asked us not to do it."

According to the city, on a scale of 1 to 5, residents who filled out comment cards at a June 20 public hearing on the matter rated their support of the project at that time at a 2.78.

But TxDOT thinks it's the anticipated continued growth of traffic on Briarcrest that will offset a lack of lefts.

"We think, ultimately, by increasing the traffic, the additional customers coming by will make an impact in a positive sense on those businesses," Wood said.

Further buffering TxDOT's case: the fact that Bryan Police stats show three blocks of Briarcrest in the debated section to be among the top ten for accidents in the city.

TxDOT says the city would go in ten percent on the right of way and utility purchases, and also pay for traffic signals when necessary.