COPPERAS COVE — The death of a teenager walking on Farm-to-Market 1113 on Jan. 4 has residents speaking out about the need for lighting and sidewalks in the area as well as maintenance of existing sidewalks in a nearby residential neighborhood.
City officials said the area is the responsibility of the Texas Department of Transportation since it does not fall in Cove city limits.
Ken Roberts, the public information officer for TxDOT’s Waco District, said improving pedestrian safety in the area must first start with the city taking action.
“(Residents) need to submit concerns to the city, which will then be provided to TxDOT. Getting sidewalks in a residential area where the state maintains the roadway is a possibility. It does not fall to the city to get it done,” Roberts said. “But the city has to request that we take a look at installing sidewalks or something else to improve safety, such as reducing the speed. That request has to come from the city.”
Roberts said residents need to contact their council members and the city manager to voice their concerns and that it will take more than a handful of individuals to cause action.
“When there is a situation in a municipality, we look for the municipality to come to us with a safety concern. What we want is a request,” Roberts said.
Resident Jon Cella, who lives on Summers Road near where 13-year-old Alyssa Martinez was killed, said the area is very dark, the speed limit is high, and there are no usable sidewalks.
“Sidewalks have been a topic of concern for years in the city. If there had been a sidewalk and the speed limit lowered, perhaps ...,” Cella said, his voice trailing off. “The transportation code says you can be cited if there is a sidewalk provided and you are not using it. But with no sidewalks, people have to walk in the street. They also skateboard, push strollers and jog. One day, someone else is going to get killed.”
Cella said TxDOT installed sidewalks on Avenue B but they were never connected to the existing sidewalks, so people are forced to walk in the road. There are also unsafe elevations in the sidewalks on Avenue B.
On Lutheran Church Road and FM 116 North, children walking to the school bus stop have no sidewalks and are forced to walk down in the bar ditch off the road. Because this area is close to House Creek Elementary School, Roberts said the project may be higher priority and qualify for “Safe Routes to School” funding.
Alyssa’s mother, Elsa Terranova, addressed the Copperas Cove City Council on Tuesday night asking for help to get sidewalks and lighting installed and the 60 mph speed limit reduced.
Cove spokesman Kevin Keller said City Manager Andrea Gardner “spoke with the citizen and the city is pursuing a few options. An item will be presented to council for discussion when appropriate.”
Roberts said once a request is received from the city, it will still take a few months to investigate. Residents also can voice their concerns directly to TxDOT at www.txdot.gov and click on “contact us” to speed up the process.
“If we get several complaints on the same situation, that is an indication that we need to get in touch with the city and work with them to take a look at it. It provides the opportunity to open dialogue with the city about the situation developing,” Roberts said.