Report on Hwy. 361 is due by first of year
Traffic may not have seemed any lighter along the Island Road this summer, but consultants who are looking at that section of highway say looks may have been deceiving.
Traffic counts by the consulting firm doing a study on the State Hwy. 361 corridor for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) report that traffic was slightly less than they expected.
Turner, Collie and Braden, of Austin, is doing the study, based on an anticipated need to expand the traffic-carrying ability of the highway between South Padre Island Drive and Port Aransas. Already, thousands of residential units are planned or under construction along the two-lane highway that is Port Aransas' link with Corpus Christi.
Possible solutions, presented at an open house last summer, range from merely expanding the highway by two more lanes to building elevated, high-speed toll lanes.
In fact, nearly any solution that expands the highway will involve some kind of toll, engineers say, because TxDOT doesn't have the budget to build new highways without assessing some kind of user fee.
TxDOT engineer Mike Walsh, at the department's district headquarters in Corpus Christi, said this week that the study is "about 50 percent complete." It's expected to be finished in late December or early January, he said.
The TxDOT review of the study should be published in February.
Whatever is decided about the State Hwy. 361 corridor won't affect a separate project to widen the highway between Avenue G and Beach Access Road 1A in Port Aransas. That project has already been funded and is largely designed.
The Port Aransas project calls for widening the highway, including a median and providing curb and gutters for as long as the $8 million in funding will last. That could be as far south as Beach Access Road 1.
In any case, no construction activity on the highway should be expected for several years. Even so, that will depend on what the study shows and what kind of public comment ensues from the publication of the review.
"It's just a feasibility study," Walsh said.