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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has awarded the Galveston Wharves a $340,000 grant to create a comprehensive road safety action plan to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, cruise passenger vehicles, shipping traffic and general vehicular traffic in and around the port. The port will contribute $85,000, making it a $425,000 project.
Receiving the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant also makes the port eligible for implementation grants through the program once the action plan is completed. Plan elements include a safety analysis, public and stakeholder engagement, assessment of current plans, and a prioritized list of projects to improve traffic safety.
This strongly aligns with the port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan, which includes an internal roadway with sidewalks, bicycle paths and other safety features. The master plan also envisions pedestrian connections across Harborside Drive to safely link the cruise terminals and historic city center.
Timing for the grant couldn’t be better as the port’s master plan takes shape. The port has nearly completed construction of its internal roadway and is aiming to build a fourth cruise terminal in the near future.
As the port’s cruise business grows and the city draws more visitors, pedestrian and vehicular traffic in and around the port is increasing. The port projects more than 2.6 million passenger movements this year. In 2022, Galveston Island welcomed a record 8.1 million visitors, a 25 percent increase from 2021, according to the Galveston Park Board of Trustees.
One of the best features of our historic port is its proximity to Galveston’s town center. Giving Galvestonians and visitors convenient and safe access to our waterfront is one of the main goals of our master plan and port staff.
One solution is to make the covered pedestrian bridge at 25th Street and Harborside operational again. Built in the 1990s and non-operational for years, the refurbished facility could connect the cruise parking garage to Cruise Terminal 25. It would give cruise passengers, onshore services staff, and others safe access to the cruise area and downtown Galveston. Engineering is nearing completion with construction expected to begin in 2024.
This grant provides the opportunity for us to create a safety action plan where we do the following:
Projects could include better signage, traffic calming road designs, improved pedestrian crosswalks, signal improvements and more contiguous sidewalk infrastructure.
Once our action plan is approved, we can then apply for federal grants to fund our projects.
As I watch cruise passengers walk with luggage down and across busy Harborside Drive, I think that there must be a safer way. I’m hopeful that this plan will be the first step in finding ways to safely connect our waterfront to downtown Galveston.