BRIDGE, EXTRA LANES, A TOLL
State offers some improvement ideas for Highway 361
By Beth Wilson Caller-Times
July 28, 2006
Motorists could cruise from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas on a toll road, an elevated bridge or on one of eight lanes under options displayed at an informational meeting Thursday for the expansion of State Highway 361.
Texas Department of Transportation has started a feasibility study to examine traffic projections and cost estimates for different expansion options.
The department held a workshop Thursday at the Port Royal condos on Mustang Island and visited with residents, business owners and developers.
"Nothing's in concrete," said Luis Ramirez, an engineer with Turner Collie & Braden, the firm conducting the study. "These are just some ideas for you to consider."
About 60 people talked with study engineers and looked at drawings and maps.
The options go from simply adding a hike and bike lane on each side to building eight lanes, four each way, some of them with tolls, or an elevated corridor with four toll lanes on top and two lanes on the bottom.
The options did not include cost estimates.
"Without knowing the cost, there's not a favorite," said Peggy Shirley, owner of Century 21 in Port Aransas.
Scott Winne, maintenance worker at the Grand Caribbean resort, said the need for expansion increases every day as developers plan more projects.
He suggested they improve the existing lanes, add a median and four lanes.
"I don't know who's going to pay for it or how, but it needs to happen," he said.
Steve Roberts, with Newport Realty in Port Aransas said another cycle of condo building is set to begin. In addition to expanding the main road, Roberts said thought needs to be given to the entrances and exits to developments off the highway to keep motorists safe while slowing and turning.
Jamie Pyle, a Padre Island homeowner, said the plans almost seem too big.
"But I'll wait to see traffic counts and traffic projections before deciding," she said.
Port Aransas resident Mimi Huffman said she likes the option of having a faster toll road.
"There's times I would use the toll, taking a friend to the airport or a doctor's appointment in Corpus," she said. "But for movies and shopping, no."
Ramirez, the engineer, said the group will take input gathered Thursday, continue to study traffic projections and costs and develop a recommendation for the state by fall.
No state funds have been allocated for this expansion.
State Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi, helped organize Thursday's meeting.
"It's the public's decision to decide what they want. It's my job to get the funding," he said.
Contact Beth Wilson at 886-3748
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