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Neighborhood divided over closing street

By DAVID TEWES
Aug. 8, 2010 at 3:08 a.m.

Railwood Drive is expected to have increase in traffic once Victoria West High School opens on Aug. 23.  Authorities believe that the influx of traffic will be a problem for neighborhood residents.

SURVEYS John Kaminski, the city's director of Development Services, has said two surveys of the Woodway subdivision have been conducted over the years.

One was by the city and the other by the homeowners association. He said that 52 to 63 percent of the residents favored closing Railwood Drive.

Complaints of speeding traffic cutting through an upscale neighborhood in north Victoria have residents there split over how to handle the problem.

The traffic uses a short street called Railwood Drive, which provides a route between Nursery Drive and Briggs Boulevard. Some Woodway subdivision residents are concerned the problem will get worse when Victoria West High School and adjacent middle school open this fall.

Traffic counts are being done to determine if closing Railwood would just shift the traffic to other streets in Woodway.

"It's no secret," resident David Brown said. "I think they have to close it."

There's no way to control traffic through the neighborhood if Railwood isn't closed, he said. The city may need to also close Woodhaven Drive to the north to keep people from using it as a shortcut, Brown said.

Tommy Lowe, another Woodway homeowner, said without seeing the results of the traffic counts, he still opposes closing Railwood. But if the city closes it, it will also need to shut down Woodhaven.

"If we just close Railwood, we're going to get that traffic flow down through the heart of the subdivision," Lowe said. "That's going to affect more people than what's being affected by them going down Railwood and Chimney Rock."

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Polasek declined to take a stance on Railwood, opting to wait until the traffic counts are complete. The state also plans to install a traffic light at Main Street and Tropical Drive, which may ease the traffic impact, he said.

Polasek said, in general, he opposes closing streets just for a neighborhood, but every case is different.

"The dynamics in that whole area have changed over the last 20 years and in some situations there may be a time when it's warranted," he said. "This street doesn't necessarily belong just to the people in Woodway; it belongs to all the citizens."

Council Member Gabriel Soliz said he opposes closing the street for that reason.

"I know the primary reason they want to close it is due to the potential of cut-through traffic because of the new school," he said. "I can see where they are coming from."

But he said if the city closes a street because it's being used as a shortcut, there are streets in his neighborhood he'd liked closed for more serious reason. That includes problems with gangs, drugs and prostitutes, he said.

"Everybody has to deal with cut-through traffic," Soliz said. "That street is a street for all the citizens of Victoria."

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