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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
Port staff is working on three projects to enhance public access and safety, particularly in the port’s commercial areas. Unlike some working ports largely restricted from public access, the Port of Galveston has popular commercial areas heavily used by the public. We also host more than 1 million cruise passengers a year.
The projects that I’m going to spotlight today are the final section of our internal roadway between 20th and 23rd streets, a federally funded road safety plan and ongoing piling replacement in the Pier 19 commercial area.
INTERNAL ROADWAY NEARLY COMPLETED
The port has made great progress on its phased internal roadway plan since it was adopted by the Wharves Board of Trustees as part of the 20-Year Strategic Master Plan in 2019. This final phase is in a busy commercial area owned by the port and leased to tenants, including Landry’s Corp.
The area includes restaurants, Galveston Historical Foundation attractions, a hotel, visitor parking lots and a city-operated trolley track. It’s located between our busy cruise terminals 25 and 28 to the west and our Pier 19 area, with shrimp boats, charter fishing boats, seafood shops, a restaurant and an offshore drilling museum, to the east.
Now in the planning phase, we’ve begun meeting with stakeholders to understand and mitigate impacts that construction could have on businesses and the public. We expect to have design completed this year, with construction in 2024. The Texas Department of Transportation is funding 75 percent of the $2.6 million project.
ROAD SAFETY PLAN
I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the port a $340,000 grant to create a comprehensive road safety action plan to improve roadway safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, cruise passenger vehicles, shipping traffic and general vehicular traffic in and around the port.
Receiving the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant also makes the port eligible for implementation grants through the program once the action plan is completed. Plan elements include a safety analysis, public and stakeholder engagement, assessment of current plans, and a prioritized list of projects to improve traffic safety.
This strongly aligns the port’s master plan, which includes an internal roadway with sidewalks and other safety features. The master plan also envisions pedestrian connections across Harborside Drive to safely link the cruise terminals and historic city center. One of our goals is to fund improvements to make the covered pedestrian bridge at 25th and Harborside operational again. Closed since Hurricane Ike, the facility would connect the cruise parking garage to Cruise Terminal 25.
PIER 19 PILING IMPROVEMENTS
As anyone with a waterfront home knows, the marine environment is harsh. The port’s Pier 19 commercial area features more than 230 wood piles that deteriorate over time.
Since 2014, we’ve replaced 61 piles at a cost of about $600,000. Our 2023 Capital Improvement Plan includes $600,000 to continue replacing piling in this area. We are also investigating the feasibility of using concrete piles with a longer life to replace wood piles in the future. We expect this to save us time and money in the long run. It also should reduce the inconveniences that maintenance creates for businesses and visitors to the area.
One of the best features of our historic port is its proximity to Galveston’s town center. Giving Galvestonians and visitors convenient and safe access to our waterfront is one of the main goals of our master plan and our port staff.