Red River Street businesses want attention (video)

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Dec. 25, 2012 at 6:25 a.m.
Updated Dec. 26, 2012 at 6:26 a.m.

Clay Atchison talks about the patches on Red River Street, which was rated by the city as one of the worst streets in Victoria.

Clay Atchison talks about the patches on Red River Street, which was rated by the city as one of the worst streets in Victoria.

Heading out onto the cracked, pitted, spine-jangling bumps of Red River Street, Clay Atchison, co-owner of McAdams Floral, always knows there's going to be trouble.

Although they secure vases and shipments before delivery, one bad bump could ruin an arrangement.

The alligator-cracked asphalt runs east and west down Red River Street crossing Laurent Street, a concrete roadway not even a year old.

Weak seams, worn-out repairs and the shifting clay beneath have shattered and dimpled Red River.

According to Victoria's master street inventory, it is one of the city's worst.

While officials recognize its condition, Red River Street still is not a priority on the capital improvement list.

Business owners along Red River Street want to know when their turn will be.

"You can tell where the repairs have been done and where the road heaves," Atchison said. "It's pretty much like Laurent was, and everybody remembers how bad Laurent was."

Atchison recalls how his father-in-law, Joe McAdams, complained when the city resurfaced the road in the mid-'80s. It's a Catch-22, he said. What's worse: a torn up road or the slow construction process?

Business at McAdams Floral, 1107 E. Red River St., got so slow during the resurfacing work that Atchison's father-in-law decided to offer a 10 percent discount to cash customers.

Atchison, who now runs the business with his wife, said the road needs an overhaul - not just another patch - and soon.

He said the city cut into the road outside his shop twice to repair water leaks, which added to its damage.

In December 2007, the public works department started a five-year, two-phased project to rebuild Laurent Street.

Public Works Director Lynn Short said the total project cost about $18.1 million.

The life of the new street is estimated at 50 years, and life for the water and sewer line is 70 years, according to the 2009 capital improvement program.

Business owners along Laurent have seen and felt the difference from their drive to work to their increased business.

Ernest Guajardo, who owns a real estate business on Laurent Street, said the reconstructed road helped his business by giving his employees and clients a good road on which to travel.

Before the work began, he never took Laurent Street to work. He took Ben Jordan Street to Red River Street, but then Red River Street got bad, he said.

"What makes real estate more valuable is how accessible it is and the type of streets you have to travel on," Guajardo said. "If I'm going to lease a piece of property, the street has a lot to do with it."

He said he believes the road has also benefited the three schools along Laurent Street.

"While construction was going on, there were a lot of businesses that went to other places, some just closed the doors," Guajardo said. "Now that it's all done, I can see new stores opening up."

Firestone manager Dolores Lira, 26, said the store on the corner of Laurent Street and Airline Road was hit hard by the reconstruction.

"Nobody could get over here unless they came from Airline," she said.

Now that the work is complete, she said business has increased, and the property looks nicer.

J.R. Godiwala, owner of the Shell gas station on Laurent Street and Mistletoe Avenue, said he purchased the business in September 2011 after the previous owner gave up.

"The last owner lost everything because he had no choice; he couldn't pay his light bill because customers couldn't get here," he said about the construction.

He said the difference between business with under-constructed roads and completed-construction roads is astronomical.

"It's positive, you can see my smiling face," Godiwala said.

For this year's capital improvement projects, the city will continue its efforts to replace the utilities in downtown Victoria, Short said.

"Over the past few years, we've had a real concerted effort to replace downtown's lines," Short said. He said it is part of an ongoing 10-year project estimated to cost $42 million.

"It's a very difficult task to prioritize the work when there's a limited amount of resources available," Short said.

As the city grows, the job of dividing resources across industrial, commercial and residential areas will become more complex.

"I don't know that we'll ever totally catch up," Short said. "Fortunately, City Council has approved a lot of water, street and sewer replacement projects."

About 10 years ago, Victoria's streets were given a 200-year life cycle. Half of 1 percent of all the city's streets were being replaced annually, Short said.

Now, streets are given a 78-year life cycle and the city increased the amount of streets replaced annually to 1.27 percent, he said.

Increasing the tax base is essential to funding more projects. So far, a major rebuilding of Red River Street is not on the radar.

According to the city's master street inventory, Red River Street between Ben Jordan and Depot streets is the city's second-lowest rated roadway next to a block of Santa Rosa Street between Depot and Cameron streets.

Even if a street is rated "poor," or in Red River's case, "very poor," the street inventory is just one budgetary tool of several used to plan future repairs, Short said. Other considerations include traffic count, development or a request by City Council.

"We had discussed it (Red River Street) with council," Short said. "It has not been prioritized. It is on the list of projects they've been considering, but it has not been selected yet."

But still, those business owners along Red River say their street is growing with development at the college, university and hospital.

Cindy Guillen, the office manager of Colonial Funeral Home, 1801 E. Red River St., said cracking, heaving, potholes and flooding are issues. She blames the shabby conditions for an increase in vandalism to the property.

Despite the patches and small repairs the city has made over the years, she said, "It's still a mess."



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