TxDOT proposes Navarro Street median

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

April 19, 2017 at 11:06 p.m.
Updated April 20, 2017 at midnight

Cars turn left at the intersection of Guy Grant Road and North Navarro Street, where there is no median.

Cars turn left at the intersection of Guy Grant Road and North Navarro Street, where there is no median. Photo: ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO    ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO for The Victoria Advocate

Possible construction of a median barrier along Navarro Street has some business owners concerned that customers will not have access to retail centers and restaurants on the busy street.

The proposed project would extend on North Navarro from Airline Road to Loop 463, about 3 miles. According to a document provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, the proposed median would be about 8 inches in height, and left lanes would be constructed at various locations to allow vehicles to turn.

Cari Hensley, a spokeswoman for TxDOT, said the proposed median is to help improve the safety of Navarro Street, which is also Business U.S. 77.

The street has eight of the 10 highest volume intersections in Victoria, according to the TxDOT document. Navarro also has 58 percent of all crashes in the city.

Between 2013 and 2016, there has been 237 reported crashes on Navarro, Hensley said.

"We are trying to reduce that number," she said.

The proposed median could possibly be similar to the median constructed on Navarro north of Loop 463, another area that was a hot spot for vehicle accidents.

"Since the median north of Loop 463 was installed, there has been a 36-percent reduction in crashes on this section of the roadway," Hensley said.

While the construction is in preliminary stages, there are property and business owners who are not on board with the project.

Nelson Billups, who owns the retail center off North Navarro and Sam Houston, said he attended an April 5 stakeholder's meeting hosted by TxDOT. The purpose of the meeting was for property owners and managers to share their thoughts about the project. He left the meeting disappointed, he said.

Billups said while the proposal stated left turns would be installed at various locations, those in attendance were told differently. The stakeholders were told the plan would have no left turn lanes except at existing stop lights, with the exception of installing one for H-E-B Plus!

Billups' concern is that the absence of several access points to retail areas will hurt businesses along Navarro. In a letter to TxDOT, Billups said a median with limited access points would lead to a decline in businesses and new development and ultimately erode the property tax revenue.

"If people can't access businesses, they will go somewhere else," Billups said.

Lisa Heinrich-Null, a dentist with an office at 6701 N. Navarro St., said she has been told by her patients that they would not do U-turns on Navarro because they are not safe.

Both Billups and Heinrich-Null have submitted comments to the TxDOT to consider lowering the speed limit on Navarro, instead of constructing a median barrier. Lowering the speed limit could be another option to consider, Billups said, because the speed limit changes to 35 mph south of the Navarro and Airline intersection.

"(South) Congress in Austin has more traffic, and there aren't medians there. They go 30, 35 mph," Heinrich-Null said. "I just don't understand the justification."

Pat O'Boyle, owner of Jason's Deli on Navarro, said he is considering holding off a $500,000 remodeling of the restaurant because of the proposed median. It makes him wonder, he said, if the median would affect sales. He added that the traffic of retail areas should also be taken into consideration.

"I appreciate TxDOT looking into it, but it would be nice to have other options," O'Boyle said. "All businesses and property owners should be engaged in the process."

Hensley said studies conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute say the opposite. Safety improvements, such as medians, do not hurt businesses because the improve mobility.

Some business owners who have gone through similar situations, however, said safety is priority.

Rick Caputo, owner of the Brown Bag Saloon on North Navarro, said the median is worth construction for safer streets. Caputo said the construction of the median north of Loop 463 did not hurt his business.

"I don't want people getting hurt on Navarro, so I like that they want to do that," he said.

Tom Halepaska, owner of Halepaska's Bakery on John Stockbauer, said he had similar fears when the new overpass was built and there was no longer two-way access to his bakery. Halepaska, a Victoria City Council member, said his business actually increased 6 percent after the loop was completed in 2004.

"Fear is greater than the truth," Halepaska said. "If people want to come to my shop, they will come to my shop. Whether there is a median or not, you're still going to go to where you need to go."

Halepaska also said the median constructed north of Loop 463 has greatly reduced the number of accidents in that area.

"Construction of a median is not done on a flippant basis or to hurt businesses. Nothing trumps safety as far as TxDOT is concerned," Halepaska said. "If we can survive the boom and bust of the oil field, we can get through this."



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