With new construction reaching an unprecedented level in Port Aransas some residents and business folk are wondering if the area’s infrastructure will be able to meet the demands of a large influx of new permanent and short-term residents and tourists. Local officials are responding that they are on top of the situation.
Port Aransas City Manager David Parsons noted that the state government in cooperation with the federal government mandates that cities and counties maintain their infrastructures in a manner that accommodates anticipated growth for a practical reason.
“How does the state make money?,” Parsons said. “It’s from growth. The state makes sure cities and counties stay on top of the situation.”
Parsons said city officials brainstorm traffic improvement and expansion needs every five to seven years during a comprehensive planning process. The last one was adopted in 2010. A follow-up kicked off in 2016, but it had to be abandoned because of Hurricane Harvey’s strike in 2017. A new 16-month comprehensive planning operation is currently in process.
The Port Aransas 2023 Comprehensive Plan started in February with three days of public meetings at City Hall to set goals. Meetings are scheduled in August to address land use and housing and in October to consider transportation and infrastructure.
The final plan will be considered for approval in April of 2023. An advisory committee of 12 citizens and business leaders is assisting city officials and the engineering, urban planning and architecture firm of Freese and Nichols, Inc.
The city’s responsibilities for the infrastructure are the natural gas system and transportation. During Hurricane Harvey the gas system suffered saltwater inundation so FEMA approved two major facility rebuilds. The eight-mile high pressure line that runs from Fish Pass was replaced, and a two-year $25 million system wide gas line replacement project of the network of gas lines running through city streets to homes and businesses will start in July.
Parsons said that the new gas system will accommodate the growth that is occurring in Port Aransas. “Both of these projects — though not line-size increases — were designed and built with modern gas line materials that they simply have to increase the gas flow rates to meet the future gas increases, he said.”
Transportation improvements will be addressed in the 2023 comprehensive plan as they were in the 2010 plan, Parsons said. The 2010 plan resulted in the rebuilding of 1.75 miles of 11th Street from a two-lane road with no sidewalks to a three-lane road with underground drainage with an eight-foot hike/bike path on one side and a five-foot pedestrian sidewalk on the other side.
It also resulted in the expansion of State Highway 361 from three lanes with no sidewalks to five lanes with an 11-foot hike/bike path on one side and a five-foot pedestrian sidewalk on the other side. It also provided for the redesign of the ferry stacking system, which required a purchase of land to be dedicated to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).
Port Aransas Mayor Pro Tem Joan Holt said that construction of many of the streets in new developments might be the responsibility of the developers, but the streets in the inner city such as Alister Street will likely need improvements. That narrow street is routinely backed up at the red light for long distances making entrances and exits to and from businesses difficult. “I don’t know that we are ready on the major streets. All of those things need to be looked at,” Holt said.
One of the roles of city officials is to put pressure on TXDOT to make improvements to state roads that run through the city, said Holt, who is leaving the city council after six years of service.
Holt said she is confident that the city’s water and sewer service that is managed by Nueces County will meet the demands of significant growth. “I think the water and sewer people are on top of it. They are quite competent.”
Nueces County Water Control and Improvement District No. 4 is responsible for providing water and collecting and treating wastewater in Port Aransas. It purchases treated water through its contracts with the City of Corpus Christi and the San Patricio Municipal Water District.
District Manager Scott Mack said that providing for growth is always a part of the management plan. “These contracts have guaranteed amounts that are adequate for current and future growth in the city and the district’s service area,” Mack said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates the sewer system of the water district, and it requires that the district begin planning for the expansion of the system at a specified stage of capacity with construction to begin when another stage is met.
Mack said there is currently an improvement project on the existing wastewater treatment plant that is in the bidding process and a water pumping station replacement on the same project. There is also a future wastewater treatment plant being designed. “ These projects ensure that the district can provide water and wastewater service adequate for current and future growth in the City of Port Aransas and the District’s service area,” Mack said.
Not “Will We Be Ready?” Will the owners of all the new dwellings be ready to pony up for gobs of insurance, then face the destruction that comes with a hurricane? The old timers may snort at these newbies but the old timers at least have the good grace to be afraid, very afraid, of hurricanes.