Second Causeway for SPI gets a little closer!

16,247 Views | 51 Replies | Last: 12 mo ago by PJYoung
Gordon Bombay
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AG
Don't understand why they are building a toll road in a region where no one has any money. The one they built in Cameron County to alleviate traffic going into the port was a huge waste. Mexican truck driver after Mexican truck driver piled up on FM 511, not using the toll road.

18 wheelers ALL OVER the streets in McAllen, the 281 exchange is absurd, never seen more debris or trash on roadways like HWY 77 and 83. This place is 10 years behind 10 years ago.
Gordon Bombay
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AG
Whats the latest on the 281 interchange
carl spacklers hat
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$150 million in funding for the 281 interchange. Last real news was late March 2017 when the Transportation Committee approved including the funding for the improvements.
Gordon Bombay
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AG
I got a survey from TxDot in the mail the other with questions about what is my average commuting distance, how many days a week do I drive, how many cars do i own... etc. Do I think another toll road would be a fair expenditure in the RGV.

I was a little disappointed in the substance of the questions. While we are at it I have seen crews working on the lighting on 83 from Weslaco to Alamo... sure would be nice to have those as I head to work about 4:30am... last I heard they were waiting on a grant or something to turn the lights on... any information on that?
carl spacklers hat
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The Interstate 2 lighting issue would be resolved via one of two options. Either the city signed an agreement with TxDOT when the lights were installed where TxDOT absorbed 100% of the install cost and the city agreed to foot 100% of the maintenance cost, or the agreement was a 50:50 arrangement where TxDOT and the city agreed to share both the install expense and the ongoing maintenance expense equally. A call to each city might shed light on which sections are TxDOT's to maintain and which are on the city/TxDOT to maintain. Sorry I can't be more specific than that.
PJYoung
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AG
PJYoung
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Second causeway quest stalls - Premium - The Brownsville Herald


Second causeway quest stalls

Raul Garcia

RAUL GARCIA, Staff Writer | Posted 2 months ago

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND After the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge partially collapsed in 2001, South Padre Island residents had to ride a ferryboat to get to and from the mainland.

The city turned into a ghost town, and it wreaked economic havoc in the county.

A barge had struck the bridge, leading to the collapse of a 160-foot section to the only bridge that connects the Island to the mainland.

Eight people died after driving off the section of the bridge 80 feet above the Laguna Madre. The tragedy underscored the need for a second causeway to serve as a backup for evacuation purposes.

Many people wonder why there isn't another way to access the Island especially during peak seasons when cars back up bumper to bumper before and after special events.

Many say the need will only grow, as the Valley's population is expected to double by 2040.

"The need for a second causeway is there, and it will always be there," said Pete Sepulveda, Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority executive director.

But while officials say the need is there, the project is at a standstill.

What is the holdup?

Sepulveda reported to Island leaders recently the project to build a second causeway is waiting on the completion of an environmental summary. However, the environmental study cannot be completed until TxDOT lifts a ban on all Texas toll road projects.

"We are still waiting to get a phone call (from TxDOT) to complete the environmental phase," Sepulveda said about the TxDOT freeze on toll road projects.

Sepulveda said the project is being developed as a toll road. But the intention is to request that TxDOT make it a non-toll road sometime during or after the development of the second causeway.

"There have been political maneuvers to stop toll roads in the state of Texas," TxDOT Pharr district engineer Pete Alvarez said in an earlier interview. "The TxDOT commission has taken the stance to hold off on toll roads unless you were environmentally cleared by 2014 or before. Right now there is a stop, and we cannot proceed with toll roads."

Officials originally hoped to have the final environmental clearance by the summer of 2016.

The financial plan

Sepulveda said it normally takes eight to 10 years to complete an environmental study. And the CCRMA has nearly reached that mark since taking on the project in 2008.

One of the crucial aspects of the environmental study is the financial plan of the project.

"The financial plan is the last phase of the environmental plan," Sepulveda said.

But that cannot be completed by engineers until the ban on toll road projects is lifted.

Sepulveda said the financial plan would lay out the details made by the engineers on the cost projections for the causeway. He said funds to pay for the project would be requested from the state and TxDOT.

The idea of a second access has been tossed around since as early as 1994. But it was not until the tragic collapse in 2001 that leaders finally moved forward on the need for it.

Price projections to build the second causeway started off as low as $120 million since talks began after 2001. But projections have risen as high as $750 million, and have dropped to the range of $500 million.

The Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge was built at a cost of $11 million in 1974. It replaced the previous bridge, which was built in 1954.

Sepulveda also reported to Island leaders that the CCRMA changed consultants and hired Figg Engineering because of its experience working on similar projects in Texas and Louisiana.

"I'm convinced, from their end, they already know how to finish the project and cut project costs even further," Sepulveda said.

Alvarez, the TxDOT district engineer, agreed a second causeway would be good for the Island.

"A second causeway would provide another opportunity to get in and out of the Island should something happen with the current causeway," Alvarez said.

He said it would be a safety improvement and provide better mobility for people getting into and out of the Island. At this point, he said, the toll road ban is being evaluated by TxDOT administrators and commissioners.

"They are evaluating the toll road ban as we speak. But they have not made a final decision," he said.

Meanwhile, the CCRMA waits.

"The only phase that we cannot expedite is the environmental phase," Sepulveda told Island leaders recently. "Once we cross that line we can expedite the design and construction."

RGV AG
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I don't see it happening in my lifetime, and I am 50, mind you a young and immature 50. There just isn't the true payback and benefit of a second causeway at this time and I doubt that in the next 20-30 years that changes. I own property in the area but have spent little time there recently, I wonder how much new construction is going on right now on SPI? I do know that when I looked at real estate listings about 6 months ago there was like an 3.5 year inventory of condo's listed for sale, and that was just condo's, not homes or duplex's.

For the life of me I can't understand why the alternative of a cutoff loop from 48 coming from Brownsville to a straight shot bridge using the same area as the old causeway isn't considered. That wouldn't even bridge the ICW. Just taking the Browntown traffic out of the mix would help the congestion through PI and divide it onto two crossing spans and many of those from Brownsville are going to go to Isla Blanca anyway.
oldord
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RGV AG said:

I don't see it happening in my lifetime, and I am 50, mind you a young and immature 50. There just isn't the true payback and benefit of a second causeway at this time and I doubt that in the next 20-30 years that changes. I own property in the area but have spent little time there recently, I wonder how much new construction is going on right now on SPI? I do know that when I looked at real estate listings about 6 months ago there was like an 3.5 year inventory of condo's listed for sale, and that was just condo's, not homes or duplex's.

For the life of me I can't understand why the alternative of a cutoff loop from 48 coming from Brownsville to a straight shot bridge using the same area as the old causeway isn't considered. That wouldn't even bridge the ICW. Just taking the Browntown traffic out of the mix would help the congestion through PI and divide it onto two crossing spans and many of those from Brownsville are going to go to Isla Blanca anyway.
I dont know that the Browntown traffic would help with traffic on the island itself. They all go north to create a mess on the beach. You still have massive traffic on the island proper. Although finically it makes sense to just run where the old causway was. I wonder what it would cost to connect Boca Chica and go over the ship channel? That would blow up Boca Chica for development.... Not that I want development but after 40 years of visiting, owning RE and living for a few years on the island, I realized I can't stop the process or the multitudes of people that come.

'When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in multiculturalism and carrying a rainbow flag" - Me
RGV AG
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Yeah, you make some real good points. Traffic on the island is always going to be a beetch nowadays because about 3.5X more people live in the RGV than when the causeway was built, not to mention probably 5X the amount on the Mexican side. The day trippers, which use the CW on and off during the same day at around the same times, are what has made the island traffic nuts. A CW up through Holly Beach isn't going to capture a ton of the day trippers either and all they would do, in many cases is run down the Island anyway.

The bottom line in this is that when a horde of cars is put on the Island and then has to run through all the stop lights and then go through PI there is going to be major traffic.

I really don't know the solution but I do know that probably 315 days out of the year the traffic in the area is not bad at all and until that changes to maybe 150 days I don't see there being a new causeway.
oldord
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RGV, I agree, after this weekend, the island will be absolutely pleasurable to be on until Easter anyway.

I remember back in the late 60s, my grandparents built a house On the island,and then my great uncle who left The valley in the late 30s came back From California and build a house on the island as well. My great aunt was from Balboa Beach California. She always made the statement that padre was just like balboa when she was growing up in the early 1900s. She always assumed South Padre Island would be what many of the other prosperous seaside cities have become like Miami etc.

I honestly believe she might have been correct if political decisions have not ruled our national policy. However, I believe that an uncontrolled and porous Border stunted the development of South Padre as a higher end destination starting after the oil crash in the early 80s
'When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in multiculturalism and carrying a rainbow flag" - Me
oldord
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As a follow-up to RGV, has anyone ever heard talk or consideration of building a road or causeway over the port ship channel to Boca Chica? I know it would have to be a bridge the likes of one in corpus or Houston but would be fascinating to watch Boca Chica and its development trajectory.
'When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in multiculturalism and carrying a rainbow flag" - Me
RGV AG
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Quote:

I honestly believe she might have been correct if political decisions have not ruled our national policy. However, I believe that an uncontrolled and porous Border stunted the development of South Padre as a higher end destination starting after the oil crash in the early 80s
I think more than anything what has always held SPI back is the lack of good non-stop flights from many places in the US. By the time someone flies through Houston or Dallas to HRL or BRO and then drives to the Island the cost and time are about the same as going to somewhere more exotic in the Caribbean. Over the years I knew many folks from up north that were spending time on SPI with Condo's there and such and finally figured out that they could get to Cozumel, Roatan, and other like places for about the same money for a more exotic time with prettier water and more to do. SPI is just too far from Houston and Dallas, and S.A. had Port A much closer.

Ironically, the majority of the upper end development on SPI has been driven by Mexico. At one time, don't know about now, over 50% of the property taxes paid on SPI were paid by Mexican Nationals. There are several really high end condo projects that were planned-marketed-sold-built by and to only Mexican nationals. Really nice places. The big money people on the Island were predominantly Mexican Nationals. The oil crash hurt SPI, but what hamstrung it for years was that it happened at the same time as the 7 year Mexican Peso instability and it took the Island 15 years to recover.

In the 90's hey day Mexican Nationals flooded that Island and spent a lot of money there, although the tipped poorly much to my chagrin. Many felt that investing in SPI real estate was a safe heaven for the money, and many did really well.

At the end of the day the winter on SPI is very unpredictable and just like it can be great weather for a month, it can also be foggy, drizzly and in the 50's for a month and upper end winter visitors are not going to take that chance, better Florida or the Caribbean. The market dynamic for SPI is lower and middle class folks for the most part, driving in from a location within a day's drive. The Golf Course is too far away and not too nice for the top end golfers either.

In my opinion many of the SPI promoters spent years and millions trying to make SPI something it was never going to be. Instead of focusing on what was really neat about it; lack of crowds, quaint Texas coastal area, proximity to Mexico (which is what drove the spring break boom times), and miles and miles of easy access beaches. I think many have caught on now, but the growth in the RGV has meant that lots more Valley Trash frequents the Island, which is a negative.
oldord
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Any updates form anyone on the second causeway?
'When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in multiculturalism and carrying a rainbow flag" - Me
carl spacklers hat
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According to CCRMA website:

The final Environmental Impact Study for the SPI 2nd Access project is currently under federal review and an environmental approval is expected in the Fall of 2019. Currently, project is on hold by TxDOT.
RGV AG
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Some stuff has gone on with property in the Holly Beach area and there have been some legal issues. What exactly I am not sure, just that a few people are PO'd about it.

Long time coming if it ever comes.
PJYoung
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https://riograndeguardian.com/cuellar-we-democrats-want-to-bring-earmarks-back-in-january/

Quote:

Sen. Hinojosa also responded to Whitlock's question. He said: "The second causeway for South Padre Island has been cleared for environmental purposes. The Cameron County RMA is working closely with South Padre Island and the state. So, we are in favor of that. But, obviously it is very sensitive area with sanctuaries we have to be very careful and cautious the way we move forward."

Hinojosa added: "It (the second causeway project) is still moving forward but it is not as fast as other projects. For example, we were able to secure $300 million to replace the Pharr Interchange. That is through TxDOT, with funding from the state government and federal government. It is far easier to deal with the Pharr Interchange than the second causeway to South Padre Island."
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