Mayor stumps for city in Washington
Port Aransas Mayor Keith McMullin said he feels “very good” about the trip he took to Washington D.C. Feb. 27- 29 to lobby for federal money to benefit a variety of initiatives on Mustang Island.
McMullin said he campaigned for funds for improvements to the ferry landings, Mustang Beach Airport and State Hwy. 361 south of Avenue G, plus other matters. Asked how confident he feels that Port Aransas will end up getting that money anytime soon, he responded that it’s hard to say.
“That’s a difficult one to ascertain at this point, largely because Washington is so dysfunctional. I think just about everyone would tell you something to that effect,” McMullin said. “But there is a transportation bill pending right now that could help with Highway 361.”
This is the fourth year Mc- Mullin has made a lobbying trip to Washington. Previous Port Aransas mayors also have made such trips.
McMullin said part of the reason he feels good about the trip is that it was his first Washington trip in which he was able to meet personally with both of the state’s U.S. senators – John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. He also met with Rep. Blake Farenthold. Port Aransas lies within Farenthold’s district.
In previous years, McMullin sometimes met with congressional staff when senators or representatives themselves weren’t available.
This year, “part of my message for everyone was that we’re fortunate to be doing so well, as a community, financially, in these troubling economic times,” McMullin said. “I shared with them that our taxpayers have been paying for street, and drainage improvements the past several years and recently passed another bond to continue that. We’re taking on projects to help with infrastructure, but some of the larger-ticket items, we need help on.”
The Port Aransas City Council voted in July last year to support a plan that would mean expanding the two-lane State Hwy. 361 from a point in the area of Mustang Boulevard to Avenue G. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) workers recently have been doing survey work in advance of construction, but not all of the money for the project is in place yet.
Also sought are funds for airport improvements. Port Aransas city officials want to see erection of a security fence, taxiway construction, an extension of the runway and other work.
TxDOT’s aviation division has directed grant money toward the airport, but Port Aransas needs to find dollars of its own to match the state’s grant money. The city is hoping that the federal government could help provide the city’s share.
Port Aransas also is looking for money for improvements that would mean longer stacking lanes and traffic light-like signals that would control traffic flow in the lanes.
The city also seeks funds for more improvements at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture and for efforts to get rid of Brazilian pepper trees, an invasive species that is spreading all over town. McMullin said he also has met with representatives of the Texas Forrest Service, seeking help with the pepper tree problem.
Many cities are competing for federal funds, but one thing that helps Port Aransas is how well it is known, for a small town.
“Both senators have been to Port Aransas and are familiar with it,” McMullin said. “They were very supportive, and in fact, when I walked into Cornyn’s office, one of the folks working the front desk had heard I was going to be there, and he was going on and on about how he’d like to be there in Port Aransas, and going fishing. There is very fond affection for us, and that always helps.”
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