By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
Since taking office just over a year ago, South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel has emphasized the importance of improving sidewalks throughout the City. On Thursday, we was in Austin accepting a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant in the amount of $3,490,360, which is focused on construction of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects in Texas cities. The grant is awarded through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The City submitted their application back in May and were thrilled to be awarded the funds, which would be used to create a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor along Padre Boulevard. A major part of the proposed project includes construction of 6-foot-wide contiguous sidewalks along the length of the Island from the Convention Centre at the north end of the Island to the south end at Isla Blanca Park. In addition, widened bicycle lanes, along with increased signage, and handicap accessible intersection crossings along the boulevard will further improve accessibility for pedestrians throughout the Island.
During his campaign and time in office, the mayor has been passionate about sidewalks, parks and Convention Centre renovations, all of which have come to fruition over this past year. He made a point to remind City staff to repair any areas posing safety risks to pedestrians and played a large part in encouraging City staff to pursue this grant.
However, the Mayor gives credit to SPI City Staff and TxDOT for all efforts. He said, “We are very grateful to TxDOT and all their efforts to help make Padre Boulevard a safe pedestrian and bicycle route for the thousands of visitors and Island residents. The city staff, and especially Jesse Arriaga, Debra Carpenter and Darla Jones worked very hard in writing the grant application and for that, I am very grateful. With our beach nourishment, construction of a new park, newly renovated community center and Convention Centre renovations and 4 miles of new bike/walking lanes on Gulf Blvd, SPI is open for business and more welcoming for our present residents and newcomers.”
Over the past couple years, the City has been extremely successful with obtaining grants with staff including Coastal Resources and Parks Administrator Reuben Treviño, who has obtained many grants for shoreline improvements, Transit Director Jesse Arriaga with the Multi Modal project, and Development Director Dr. Sungman Kim with the recent grant for the new City park.
Grant writing consultant Peter A. Ravella has been brought on to help pursue RESTORE Act funding, which was created to distribute some $800 million in settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill over the next 15 years, and he will focus his efforts on a marina project at Corral Street, land acquisition and ecotourism facilities near the Birding Center and Sea Turtle, Inc., and lastly, a land conservation and public access project near the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway.
Mayor Patel added, “I will also be announcing early next year brand new projects that will further improve our Island.”
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