Gulf Freeway closure postponed

August 5, 2009 4:12:49 PM PDT
Call it the price of progress. If you've traveled to Galveston this summer, you know when construction is underway on Interstate 45. Traffic jams can build up for miles and drivers are not the only ones unhappy about the situation. This weekend's freeway project would have closed the Gulf Freeway at Calder Road near League City to build an overpass connecting state Highway 96 to I-45. The project is now delayed until further notice.

"It was postponed because we are a public agency and we have a responsibility to be aware of the concerns raised by the public," said Raquelle Lewis of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Public expression, in this case, coming from the City of Galveston concerned the traffic delay would put the brakes on tourist traffic into Galveston Island. The Gulf Freeway is a major route to the island and losing tourists would mean losing much needed tourist dollars these last days of summer vacation.

"We need a better dialogue of communication with the Houston district of TxDOT to avoid these last minute crisis situations we would have found ourselves in this weekend," said Lou Muller, Galveston Parks Board of Trustees.

This is not the only construction conflict. Last year, TxDOT delayed a project on the Gulf Freeway when it was discovered the date coincided with Mardi Gras. However, interrupting tourist travel is only one aspect the mayor of Galveston has concerns about. She considers more important the idea of having an open and clear evacuation route during hurricane season.

"Let's now wait to close down I-45 until after the season is over. Closing any part of I-45, if we should have an event and have to evacuate Galveston County as well as the Island, we're not going to get anywhere. We'll go over the causeway and come to a stop because of road construction," said Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas.

However, TxDOT says they routinely coordinate with cities about construction schedules.

"We do that consistently and I think unfortunately we get in a situation where there's really no good time," said Lewis.

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