No special election on one-way Pairs Project for Rosenberg

Rosenberg City Council took no action at the September 16 Special City Council Meeting on a petition opposing the One-Way Pairs Project. The “Petition to Stop the Avenue H & I One-Way Pairs Project” requested the City call a special election to determine if citizens support the project, or not. In addition to the petition calling for a special election, City Council was also presented a letter of support and resolution in favor of the project as part of their Council Meeting Agenda Packet.
Following an executive session, the City’s legal counsel presented an overview of the legal framework governing the petition, citing both procedural and substantive reasons why the petition should not be acted upon by the City.

The submitted petition did not comply with City of Rosenberg Charter provisions regarding initiatives. Additionally, legal counsel highlighted case law demonstrating that referendums cannot be disguised as initiatives, and that a city’s authority under the initiative provisions of its charter is limited to legislative matters, concluding that the petition presented was a referendum, that it was not legislative in character, and that it was non-binding.

In summary, legal counsel advised City Council that the City does not have the authority to call an election as requested in the petition, noting that a city’s right to hold an election is dependent on its authority as conferred by law, and citing Texas Attorney General opinions that demonstrate that: cities or voters do not have the authority to place non-binding resolutions on a ballot to test public opinion, and that when there is no authority to do so, public funds cannot be used.

About “One-Way Pairs”
The One-Way Pairs Project is a TxDOT project to improve mobility and safety in Rosenberg by converting sections of Avenue H (US 90A) and Avenue I (FM 1640) from Frost to Louise to one-way sections of roadway. The project will occur within the existing roadway, and improve congestion and safety by reducing the number of interaction points and simplifying signalization cycles. The sections of roadway included in the project area currently experience between two-and-a-half and five times the state average crash rate. This project is a portion of an overall project that has been on TxDOT’s books since the early 2000s, but which due to budgetary constraints, didn’t become viable until maintenance funds were recently made available to TxDOT.

TxDOT will incur all costs for engineering and construction of the roadway. The City of Rosenberg’s obligations related to the project include relocation of water and sanitary sewer lines, and acquisition of required right-of-way. When the project is complete, the City will be reimbursed $1.5 million of its costs via Fort Bend County Mobility Bond Funds approved in 2007.

In addition to its normal public input process for projects, TxDOT representatives have made three special presentations to City Council and the general public since February 2013, giving project details, presenting detailed information on safety, traffic studies, counts, and modeling, and designing alternative project options for Council’s consideration. To view copies of presentations presented to Rosenberg City Council by TxDOT in July and August 2013, click here.

Most recently in late August, at the request of City Council, TxDOT representatives presented an alternate to the one-way pairs scenario which would require intersection widening and channelization resulting in a significantly higher impact on the community including an estimated right of way acquisition cost of $30 million, the disruption and/or complete loss of businesses and properties at certain locations, and concrete raised median channelization throughout the project which would significantly limit the ability to access businesses and neighborhoods along the roadways except at signalized intersections. Not only would this option cost significantly more, and have less of an impact according to TxDOT models on congestion and safety, it would also be a much greater disruption for the community at large.

TxDOT will hold a formal public hearing as part of its final environmental review prior to letting the road construction. Currently, this public hearing is anticipated to be sometime in late 2013, or early 2014. People are encouraged to voice their opinions regarding the project via TxDOT’s formal comment process, so that they may be registered and responded to.

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