Expansion of the Island Road (officially State Hwy. 361) between Beach Access Road 1 and Park Road 22 is too far down on the highway department's priority list for comfort.
A decision on the best option to handle existing and anticipated traffic has not been made, so the design phase is little more than a glimmer in the eyes of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The volume of traffic on the Island Road has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, and developments under construction and on the drawing board are not near build-out. Traffic generated by the construction alone should be an indication of what is to come.
In addition to the increased traffic the Island Road handles now on a daily basis, it is one of only two routes to get to the mainland during a hurricane threat. The ferry route shuts down well ahead of a storm due to rising tides, leaving the Island Road the only route off Mustang and Padre islands.
Port Aransas hosts thousands more visitors and residents than it did 10 years ago, all of whom must be able to safely exit the island in a timely manner the next time a storm poses a threat. The existing two-lane Island Road is insufficient to handle that volume of traffic effectively.
It could be argued that two accidents last month that occurred within a week of each other might not have claimed three lives had the expanded highway been in place.
The first step is to step up the timetable in determining which expansion option is most viable in terms of effectiveness and cost. Then, waste no time in moving to the drawing board and ground-breaking. Residents and visitors must understand that expansion of the Island Road may come at a price. As funding becomes increasingly difficult to come by, TxDOT appears to be leaning more toward toll roads.
Putting expansion of the Island Road on a fast track would be the pro-active and right thing to do for TxDOT. To do anything less would be to turn its back on certain disaster.