Spencer Road construction

A portion of Spencer Road between Mayhill Road and South Loop 288 was recently closed for road reconstruction.

So much dirt is flying to fix Denton roads and other infrastructure that the public affairs office at City Hall is working to nitro-boost its communications.

Almost every possible tool is on the table, from letter-writing and door hangers to sophisticated interactive maps, city spokeswoman Jessica Rogers told City Council members during a work session last week.

“We have to communicate in a way that shows empathy,” Rogers said. “Construction is frustrating.”

The city’s website long has included a list of major projects that were funded as part of pair of bond elections totaling about $118 million, for example, the widenings of Bonnie Brae Street and Mayhill Road.

But the website is being reorganized and loaded with more ways for people to find out what’s going on in their neighborhood or on their drive to work or shopping.

For example, some residents in eastern Denton questioned why the city appeared to be repaving Paisley Street when it was in good condition. But Paisley wasn’t being repaved, it was being microsealed. The thin layer looks like a new street and boosts pavement life. The city’s new “Improving Denton” website includes a map of all the streets slated for microsealing this year.

The “Improving Denton” website also has interactive maps that show completed, current and upcoming road and infrastructure (storm drainage and water and sewer line improvements) construction so residents can plan for travel interruptions.

Links to other maps show other construction that isn’t city-initiated but can impact neighborhoods and city streets. One city map details various development projects underway, including a new office park tying into existing water and sewer lines under the street. Links to interactive maps for Texas Department of Transportation and Atmos Energy show other construction projects. Atmos is in process of replacing aging steel pipe under streets in Denton and throughout North Texas.

Rogers told council members that public affairs employees are meeting weekly with the city’s new Project Management Office to make sure they have all the information they need to better communicate with residents.

“We try to answer those questions as clearly as we can,” Rogers said about how the work will be done, how it will impact people, where to find more information, and who to speak with about the project.

Public affairs employees also are helping the engineering department organize a series of public meetings in early December about upcoming projects.

Council member Keely Briggs asked how far along the city was in working with Waze, a popular smartphone application that helps motorists navigate through traffic problems in real time.

Rogers said the work is still in progress with a technical group of employees studying the app, which is a Google subsidiary and works with crowdsourced traffic information as well as official maps.

The public affairs office is preparing a report, the “2019 Construction Guide,” to be mailed to Denton residents soon. Motorists and residents also can sign up for alerts to get more information on road construction projects in town by visiting on ImprovingDenton.com and clicking on the “Sign Up” link.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfe DRC.

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