City sidewalk construction nears completion

Joseph Miller, Opinion Editor

Joseph Miller
Sidewalk construction just off Live Oak Street. According to Darrek Ferrell, the construction on sidewalks should end March 14.

Joseph Miller | Opinion Editor

The sidewalks along Maple Street and the south side of Live Oak Street in Commerce are nearing completion.

The sidewalks along the streets came from a grant in 2015, but the project was held and extended until a plan could be done with Toole Design Group (TDG).

TDG was the design group behind the redesign of Sulphur Springs’ downtown square.

TDG in partnership with A&M-Commerce put together a plan that is part of the Reimagine Commerce project and changing the city as a whole.

The construction process experienced various hiccups and setbacks along the way, as staffing and weather issues have caused delays.

All of the demolition for the construction was done upfront, and all of the construction happened on Maple Street first.

This caused Live Oak Street to lay fallow and await work while citizens wondered at the status.

“Construction projects are always painful from a community standpoint. You are always in the way and interrupting business, but the contractor has done a good job at making sure that people have adequate access,” Commerce City Manager Darrek Ferrell said.

Ferrell said that the new five-foot sidewalks, while being compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, will increase the walkability of Commerce.

Along with improving the sidewalks, the City of Commerce is trying to improve the quality of structures in the city.

Over the past three years the city has torn down almost 300 substandard, vacant houses.

“One really important aspect and battle we have been fighting as a city is making sure that the properties that students use to live off campus and rent are safe, clean and healthy.” Ferrell said.

Ferrell said that the city knows that there are structures that are not up to standard. The city implemented a building standards commission and residential safety inspection to help with this problem.

Some landlords use loopholes in the system and offer to pay utilities to circumvent the process.

“It is important for students to know before they move in to make sure their residential safety inspection is done, even if they [proprietors] are offering to pay the utilities.” Ferrell said.

Construction on the sidewalks is contracted to finish on March 14, and the plan is to focus next on internal streets and infrastructure.

Ferrell said there may potentially be conversations between the city and the university about turning over some city streets where the university owns both sides of the street.