By Pamela Cody
Special to the PRESS
On a crisp, cool, impossibly beautiful January morning, city officials and staff, the mayor, council members, and construction workers gathered at the South Padre Island Convention Center Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony for PR100.
SPI Mayor Patrick McNulty addressed the crowd before the groundbreaking, offering the following comments.
“The Padre Boulevard Median, Boardwalk, and Sidewalk Improvements Project has been in the works for many years. The inception of this project started with former mayor Robert Pinkerton and councilman alderman Rick Ridolfi. I’d like to thank them for their vision of this project. I’d also like to thank the current council for passing the resolution to make this project a reality.”
According to McNulty, construction began on January 2, 2020, and is estimated to be completed within 15 months, weather permitting. The project is part of one of the city’s venue tax projects, approved by South Padre Island voters at the November 8, 2016 election and is funded through HOT tax.
McNulty continued, adding “The medians and sidewalks will improve traffic, pedestrian mobility, and public safety along Padre Boulevard. The boardwalks will be developed over the wetlands which will allow the Island to keep its natural habitat while letting our active residents and guests enjoy continual accessibility.”
The mayor thanked the city staff and contractors for working diligently on the project and informed the audience that the next venue project from the current council will be breaking ground on the quiet water sports park in the fall of 2020. Mayor McNulty thanked everyone for attending the groundbreaking and all the previous council members that worked on these projects. He encouraged everyone to come to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the PR100 Project next year.
South Padre Island council member Kerry Schwartz was on hand for the groundbreaking, and remarked on the various aspects of the project.
“Number one, it enhances the beauty of the Island, adding greenery on the boulevard. What’s that song, pave paradise, put up a parking lot – we’re going the opposite direction. Besides adding the greenery, it’s making the boulevard much, much safer for pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular.”
Schwartz noted that in the areas where the new medians already exist, there have been a lot fewer accidents. “We now have a median where people can at least get across and have a safety zone without having to cross several traffic lanes,” said Schwartz, adding “One of the main features is along where the medians are going in, there will be an additional 7 or 8 crosswalks with flashing lights to help people get across the boulevard a lot safer than what’s happening now.”
Addressing the community’s complaints about traffic slowdowns and other inconveniences due to the construction and project design, Swartz had this to say.
“It will be inconvenient for a few folks. Some that have businesses, we went through this. On the first set of medians, the business community was up in arms, saying it was going to kill their business. It never happened.”
Schwartz continued, adding “It hasn’t destroyed business or affected business. It’ll make it inconvenient for people if they don’t have a crosswalk right there, but they can walk a block down or two and cross the street safely.”
Schwartz concluded his comments by emphasizing “The safety of our visitors and our residents is of paramount importance, that’s what we are addressing, and adding additional lighting and greenery to the boulevard. It’s all about safety and beautification.”