By Rodger Rees, Port Director and CEO
The port’s cruise business is growing, which is great news for the port, its business partners, workers and the community. Adding a third cruise terminal and more ships generates hundreds of jobs, local spending and more sales tax revenue for the city.
A growing cruise business also generates more revenue for our self-sustaining port. As a city-owned entity with no taxing authority, we reinvest our revenues to maintain aging port infrastructure and to build new infrastructure to expand our cruise and cargo businesses.
Growth also can bring challenges. Since the public-private partnership with Royal Caribbean Group was finalized, the port has been making plans and improvements to manage the additional traffic that growth will bring.
TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Galveston Island is a major tourist destination, attracting more than 7 million visitors a year. Cruise passengers make up a fraction of those visitors – about 1 million a year. The port has several traffic management tools to reduce the impact cruise-related traffic has on the community and to make it easier and faster for cruise passengers to park and board.
Here’s a summary of some of the tools in our traffic management toolbox, ranging from state-of-the-art technologies to major infrastructure improvements:
- Expanded interior roadway to move some port-related traffic off Harborside Drive, especially around downtown
- Real-time traffic condition and routing updates through navigation apps like Waze
- More wayfinding signage for cruise passengers
- Advance traffic notifications to Port of Galveston parking reservation holders
- Automated port cruise parking entrance and exit with license plate readers
NEW INTERIOR ROADWAYS
The port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan, adopted by the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees in 2019, maps out an interior roadway through much of the port’s 483-acre property on Galveston Island.
After extensive studies, the port is revitalizing and extending its Old Port Industrial and Wharf roads based on current and future traffic needs. The multi-year project has three phases to serve the West Port Cargo Complex, cruise operations in the central port, and the east port commercial, cargo and Cruise Terminal 10 operations. The total estimated cost of $20 million will be funded with port revenues and grants.
Additionally, the port is exploring the concept of having a direct connector from the port to Interstate 45. This would allow traffic to be delivered directly to the port. Such a project would take years to plan but could take the same path as the Galveston ring barrier.
PARKING AND MOBILITY
Our Mobility Department is devising ways to move cruise-related traffic to its final destinations most efficiently. All customers who park at Cruise Terminal 10 will benefit from expedited entrance and exit at parking facilities with new license plate recognition technology. Also, the terminal’s extensive internal roadway system has the capacity for hundreds of cars, which will take traffic off Harborside.
Through a partnership with Waze, real-time data collected from Waze users as well as port construction and road closure updates will help Waze users – both island residents and cruise passengers – plan the most efficient routes.
Reservation and Loyalty Rewards customers also will have the option to sign up with the port for text messages to get real-time traffic conditions and other updates.
Want to learn more about the new cruise terminal and the port’s traffic management plans? I’ll be sharing details in future columns. We’re also planning an open house in October to share information with the community and our business partners. We’ll hope to see you there.