Port Aransas explores Hwy. 361 sidewalk issue



Traffic streams by a section of State Highway 361 that has no sidewalk on Thursday, March 24. Port Aransas city officials are talking about the possibility of having some sort of walkway or sidewalk. Staff photo by Dan Parker

Traffic streams by a section of State Highway 361 that has no sidewalk on Thursday, March 24. Port Aransas city officials are talking about the possibility of having some sort of walkway or sidewalk. Staff photo by Dan Parker

Port Aransas city officials are looking at the possibility of getting a walkway built along an area of State Highway 361 where no sidewalk currently exists.

The highway is lined with hundreds of yards of sidewalks on both sides of the thoroughfare, but no sidewalk or any other kind of walkway exists along the west side of an approximately 1,700-foot-long section between the Wetland Park overlook and the south end of the Tower Center, in the 1700 block of the highway.

Crosswalks and signs warning motorists about pedestrians are in place at both ends of the area that has no sidewalk. But concerns exist that a car could hit a pedestrian crossing the highway.

The speed limit is 45 mph in that area. Pedestrians have been seen sprinting across the highway to avoid fast-moving vehicles.

“It’s a bad place,” Port Aransas City Councilman David Sieloff said during a March 17 council meeting where the issue was being discussed.

Sidewalks were built along much of 361 several years ago, at the time that part of the highway was expanded from two lanes to four. It was a Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) project.

The photo illustration above shows where city officials are looking in to the possibility of building a sidewalk along State Highway 361 where one does not exist. Photo illustration by Keith Petrus

The photo illustration above shows where city officials are looking in to the possibility of building a sidewalk along State Highway 361 where one does not exist. Photo illustration by Keith Petrus

Wetlands exist in the area where no sidewalk was built.

Parsons said putting an elevated wood boardwalk there would possibly cost about $1.5 million. Part of that price tag has to do with the environmental work that would have to be done in relation to the wetlands.

Flashing pedestrian warning signs were in place before Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017, but the hurricane did away with those signs, Sieloff said, adding that he wondered if TxDOT would be willing to bring them back.

If a project to build a walkway is undertaken, “it wouldn’t even be a city project,” Parsons said.

“We would have to figure out how to somehow spur the state into some type of partnership where we help get some money to lure them into wanting to participate,” he said.

The city could seek grants, the city manager said.

TxDOT “is willing to work with the City of Port Aransas to explore the possibility of extending a pedestrian structure over a sensitive wetland area on the west side of State Highway 361,” TxDOT spokesman Rickey Dailey said.

“It is important to note that such a project would require wetland mitigation and the acquisition of federal and state permits, which could be a lengthy process,” he said.

“TxDOT would expect the City of Port Aransas take the lead on the permitting process and identifying suitable locations for wetland mitigation that are acceptable to state and federal agencies that have environmental oversight,” Dailey said.

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