The city of Killeen Transportation Department has presented a plan to garner state funding for a 1.35-mile hike and bike trail between Watercrest Road and West Elms Road in western Killeen.
If the city is awarded the grant — and the council approves the project — the concrete path will make another link in a planned chain of trails and sidewalks to one day circle the city.
The Watercrest trail is part of a 9.2-mile system of planned trails on the west side of the city designed to connect downtown Killeen to the Texas A&M University-Central Texas campus.
The city currently has two hike and bike trails, and the council has already approved funding for two additional trails.
One of the tenets of the city’s Comprehensive Plan — the long-range design of the city thoroughfares and land use — is to encourage non-vehicular travel throughout the city.
Depending on how quickly revenue becomes available, by 2032 residents in Killeen could safely circle the city on foot or bicycle through a series of city parks, enhanced sidewalks and a few short rides on the HOP, the regional bus service operated by Hill Country Transit.
“The goal is to make the city a more walkable community,” city transportation director George Lueck said. “All of these trails are stitched together with HOP stops to make as much convenience for people as possible.”
Banking on the success of the 2.5-mile Andy K. Wells Hike and Bike Trail, a new project under construction will link the Killeen Community Center to downtown. The hike and bike extension, part of the downtown streetscaping project, is projected to be completed by February 2014.
On Tuesday, the council will vote whether to approve a grant application to the Texas Department of Transportation that will pay for 80 percent of the construction costs of the planned Watercrest hike and bike trail.
The grants will be awarded in June and construction could begin as soon as March 2014, Lueck said.
The city’s portion of the cost is $704,133, which includes the full engineering and environmental assessment fees and 20 percent of the construction cost, according to city documents. An allotment of funds for a west side park, such as the Watercrest hike and bike trail, was approved by voters in a 2002 bond election Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison told the council Tuesday.
If council approves the project, the bond would be issued during the 2013-14 fiscal year, he said.
Next week, the city plans to award a contractor on the Rosewood Overpass Project, which includes 6,600-foot-long hike-and-bike trail along Rosewood Drive, a couple hundred feet from Purser Family Park in Harker Heights.
The massive project will extend Rosewood Drive from Stagecoach Road to an overpass across Central Texas Expressway.
The projected completion date for the Rosewood Overpass Project is June 2015.
Marriage of benefits
Lueck said Killeen residents are often anxious to use the hike and bike trails.
“Generally with trail projects we have trouble keeping people off of them before we finish pouring the concrete,” Lueck said.
The city transportation director said the hike and bike trails are useful for the city in more ways than one.
They provide recreational opportunities, different modes of transportation, preserve the creek buffer zones for cleaner storm water drainage and they create better air quality because people aren’t using their cars as much, Lueck said.
Also, for these reasons, a variety of entities, including TxDOT and Texas Parks and Wildlife, offer grant opportunities for cities that build hike-and-bike trails.
“Anything that is a potential chance to get some leverage we look at, including finding different modes of travel,” Lueck said.
Lueck said that part of what makes the Watercrest plan competitive for the grant is that it ties into a larger project that connects residents to other trails through HOP routes.
Hill Country Transit, which services most of Bell County, coordinates its plans with the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization and individual cities, director Robert Ator said.
A new HOP route, fixed route number 7, scheduled for final approval in January, is planned to cross Robinet Road near the southern terminus of the Watercrest trail. At the end of last year, Hill Country Transit began retrofitting HOP buses with bike racks.
“Our goal is to provide the public with multi-modal transportation,” Ator said. “If that relates to creating hike and bike trials than we certainly are going to cooperate with that.”