TxDOT's Briarcrest Plan Approved by Bryan Council

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TxDOT dollars will go towards building medians and creating turn lanes on Briarcrest Drive in Bryan. That's the decision of the city council after a 4-3 vote Tuesday evening, one that was not without its wrangling.

The discussion began with a new development as City Manager David Watkins made the announcement of a TxDOT concession to some of the most vocal opponents of raised medians: business owners at the corner of 29th and Briarcrest.

"TxDOT is agreeable to a left turn median break on eastbound Briarcrest into the center, which is a quantum leap from where we were," Watkins said.

The city manager added that with the new left, there could only be a central driveway, not multiple entrances to the shopping center. Tenants and property owners would have to come to agreements on easements.

"It's probably not a desirable condition, but certainly, it's something that we looked at," said Bryan Wood, the chief engineer for TxDOT in the Bryan District. "We thought we could fit it in, and we thought it was a good concession to make to get this important safety project."

Prior to the concession, TxDOT officials had said the possibility of an extra median break at the shopping center in question was very unlikely. Wood said he asked his engineers to review the layouts. They then reported back to him that they could offer the extra break.

Wood had passed along the information to Watkins Monday. It came as a surprise to many associated with the shopping center.

The concession wasn't good enough for some councilmembers. Joe Marin, Mike Southerland and Annette Stephney put up a united front to postpone a decision on Briarcrest, with Marin and Southerland saying the $4 million offer should be rejected all together.

"Solve the problem," an adamant Southerland proclaimed. "Don't put a Band-Aid on it. We do not need to approve this thing tonight. There's not enough work that's been done on it."

Southerland denounced the idea that medians would help the situation, saying turn lanes and signal synchronization would alleviate traffic woes on their own.

Stephney only went so far as to say more time was needed to review the plan now that the added median break was in the plan.

Marin's motion to reject the offer was itself rejected in a 3-4 vote.

Councilmember Ben Hardeman then motioned that TxDOT's project be approved, including the option for the new median break. Southerland objected to consideration of the question, but did not get the necessary votes to shoot down Hardeman's motion.

Marin then made a motion to table the agenda item. That also failed. The motion to approve the TxDOT deal was then finally approved in a 4-3 vote.

The property owners will get the chance to decide whether the last-minute median break is what they want.

"I think it's a fair compromise," saild Councilmember Jason Bienski. "It's not perfect. I know it's not a perfect deal, but our jobs up here are to look after the whole city of Bryan."

"We do appreciate it," said Michelle Winder, an owner of Briarcrest Cleaners, "but it does absolutely nothing for us. We're still going to lose our drive-thrus, and it still doesn't get people out of the shopping center. It may get them in, but it's not going to get them out."

Winder made it clear in a speech to the council before the decision that she was thankful for the councilmembers listening to their points of view, and even thanked Wood, saying he certainly was not an enemy of those businesses.

Though approval came Tuesday, TxDOT estimates construction could be one or two years away.

If the council would have been rejected, the $4 million would have been reallocated to other future projects in the 10-county Bryan District of TxDOT.

The other major item touted from Tuesday's agenda was the Bryan Business Council. Despite discussion during executive session, no action was taken concerning the body despite four vacancies due to resignations earlier this month.