Transport plans move forward

Special to the PRESS

February 5, 2015

During the Form Based Code workshop on Jan. 22, the City Council came to the consensus to further develop the current draft transportation plan which has been in the works since 2010. The original idea of the transportation plan was to create a multiple mode plan that considers not only cars, but also the city bus system, bike lanes, sidewalks, and parking. The SPI Public Transit Department has made significant strides in the past few years with the growth and success of the Wave, the city’s free transportation service, as well as the groundbreaking of the Multi-Modal Facility last November.  Transit Director Jesse Arriaga attended Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting to present some Public Transit projects for approval.

The council took action on the draft plan, directing staff to begin work, in consultation with Kimberley Horn and Gateway Planning, to further develop the Comprehensive Transportation Schematic Design Plan. The draft, which was discussed at the Form Based Code workshop, will include pedestrian and bicycle pathways, medians, landscaping, parking, drainage, lighting, signage and more for the Padre Boulevard Corridor and Entertainment District. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which has jurisdiction over Padre Boulevard as an extension of State Highway 100, will be an important partner in the planning process.

Although the funding for the long term project is not yet available, Council Member Sam Listi stressed the importance of having a “shovel-ready” plan so that when the opportunity for funding, potentially state or federal grants, becomes available, the City will be prepared to submit the project for consideration. Mayor Barry Patel said he recently reviewed grant requirements and recommended that the Council hold a meeting to work backwards from those requirements to effectively put the City in the position to submit a grant application in 2016.

With the funding that is available in the short term, the Council approved the staff drafted Landscaping Plan for segments of Gulf Boulevard from Sunset Drive to Constellation Drive. The plan included four types of native plants with an estimated cost of $32,000. They also approved a motion to use a previously budgeted amount of $300,000 to keep momentum on Gulf Boulevard improvements and to proceed with construction on the next four blocks.

The council also accepted an agreement with the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for their contribution in the amount of $50,000 to be used for operations by The Wave. The PI EDC has provided this contribution for the past few years, and The Wave has served as important connection between residents of the two cities. The Council also approved the purchase of two Ford E-450 buses in the amount of $159,927.48 —a purchase covered entirely by a grant. These new buses will replace two used buses that will likely be auctioned off.

In addition, Arriaga discussed the allocation of $200,000 in federal and local transportation funds for the Multi-Modal Project. The transportation fund has accumulated local funds in the past year and will provide $130,000 while $70,000 will come from federal funding. The allocation will cause no impact to the City’s General Fund. Lastly, the council approved the Transit Department’s Title VI Plan to comply with TxDOT regulations to ensure equal rights and prohibit discrimination.

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