The population of Port Aransas nearly doubled from 1980 to 2000, and projections by the Texas Water Development Board show that by 2010 the population will have nearly tripled from that 1980 figure, and quadrupled by 2020.
Do the math. The year 2020 is only 12 years away.
While the Nueces County Water Control and Improvement District No. 4, which provides water and wastewater services to Port Aransas, is prepared for that level of growth, State Hwy. 361 has remained a two-lane highway for the past four decades. Only resurfacing and shoulder improvements have been made during that time frame.
And now we're told that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is scheduling only maintenance funds for most highways. Construction on the expansion of State Hwy. 361 was supposed to have begun in 2004, but now TxDOT cannot say when the project will break ground.
A portion of the "island road", as it is called, has been my daily commute for nearly 25 years, during which time the traffic load has gone from "zip" to "wow!"
That stretch of roadway is accommodating inexperienced teens, experienced but slow moving drivers and impatient middle-aged drivers in numbers that mirror the increase in population. The increase in the number of vehicles bringing goods and services to town parallels the population increase.
Those population projections do not take into consideration peaks in the tourist industry, such as Spring Break and summer holidays that significantly increase the highway traffic volume.
For TxDOT to relegate State Hwy. 361 between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi to maintenance only, or to let its expansion languish on the back burner may well result in tragic, even deadly, consequences.
TxDOT district engineer Craig Clark puts a more optimistic spin on the future of the proposed expansion project, and we can only hope that he and Port Aransas city officials won't rest until a "start date" has been established.
It's a matter of life and death.