By James Draper
The City of Gladewater is applying for federal funds for the development of a ‘Safe Streets’ strategy, and residents’ roadway insights are integral in the process.
Locals will have the chance to offer their two cents and more during a public Town Hall meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, at Gladewater City Hall.
Code Enforcement Officer Maria Tidwell is spearheading the community’s application for Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) monies from the U.S. Department of Transportation. An initial $250,000 grant (including a 20 percent match from the city) would fund the development of an Action Plan.
That overview will cover everything from adding sidewalks to upgrading crosswalks, installing lighting, improving signage and more. Tidwell presented her working plan to city council members May 18, emphasizing the draft is meant to spark a conversation with residents. Their feedback will determine how the grant moves forward.
“I just put an Action Plan out there to present, but we may have to tweak it a bit based on what the community wants. It’s for the constituents we serve,” she added. Public engagement is stipulated in the grant application. “It’s definitely part of the process. We have to engage our citizens because ultimately they are the ones who are going to be using the roads.”
Tidwell hopes locals won’t pass up their chance to speak directly on the project.
“We want what the citizens want. If they want change in their neighborhood, as far as the safety of our roads, they need to come to this meeting. They can see things differently than we do,” she said. “Let’s say we get sidewalks: some people might want sidewalks in different places.
“This is your opportunity to come and get involved, to have your voice heard on what we should with the funds we receive to improve our streets and roads in Gladewater.”
The grant program particularly highlights investment in underserved communities. According to the U.S. Census, two out of three of Gladewater’s Census tracks are tagged as underserved.
The key thing for Tidwell is getting as much feedback as she can on the working plan and to gain any insights that will change it for the better.
“Maybe there’s a stop sign that’s needed in a place we don’t know. Maybe they’ll say, ‘I need a speed bump. The traffic down my road is extremely too fast; people are speeding.’ Just different ideas, things I haven’t thought up that the community can suggest.”
Putting the funds to best use for the Action Plan can enhance how much the community can receive for implementation later.
“Let’s say they want to see better lighting in their neighborhood – I’ve had a woman come in multiple times to tell me she needs a street light, that it’s extremely dark on her street,” Tidwell noted. “With these funds we can put street lights in. We can improve crosswalks, put down sidewalks. We can slow speed limits down.
“We can do anything that has to do with the safety of our streets.”
For anyone who wants to put in the ‘homework’ before the June 13 Town Hall, Tidwell suggests logging on to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s web portal and reading the particulars of the SS4A grant program – what the monies can be used for, what constitutes an action plan, limitations and other information. Visit transportation.gov/grants/SS4A.
“We’re applying for an Action & Demonstration Grant. We’re going to, of course, hire a consultant to help us create our Action Plan,” Tidwell added, but that consultant won’t be starting from scratch or working in a vacuum. Their work will be based on the community’s direction from the Town Hall.
“We’re going to tell our consultant, ‘This is what our citizens want,’ then they’re going to come up with an Action Plan.”
In addition to notifying residents via the Mirror and social media, Tidwell will be distributing flyers to drum up interest.
“I just really want everybody to come,” she said. “I’m just really excited to see how this goes. I want people to speak up and I want them to tell us how they feel. What do they want to see in Gladewater? There’s going to be a lot of comments.”
By James Draper