Ben Wilson Street project must move forward
By the Advocate Editorial Board
July 29, 2017 at 3:57 p.m.
Updated July 30, 2017 at 6 a.m.
The city of Victoria needs to continue its support of the University of Houston-Victoria's plans to make North Ben Wilson Street its official entry point.
The two agencies have discussed this proposal for at least two years. Last year, the city agreed to the plan to shrink the five-lane street to three so sidewalks and medians could be built.
The project appeared to be on track.
But at the last City Council meeting, council members Jeff Bauknight and Josephine Soliz raised questions about the project. They were concerned lowering the speed from 45 mph and taking away two lanes would cause a traffic bottleneck.
That concern has been addressed previously. Studies have been conducted and have shown just the opposite. Vehicles of all sizes, including emergency vehicles, will be able to use the narrower street without a problem.
It is vital that the project keeps the green light for the continued growth of the university and the safety of the students and faculty who will be crossing the street daily as the university continues its growth along North Ben Wilson Street.
Such safety measures will be needed as the university works toward its goal to have 6,000 students on campus by the year 2025. Now, about 1,500 students are on campus.
The project also will benefit the city immeasurably.
The university would purchase two lanes of Ben Wilson from the city for about $6 million.
The university will pay to build the sidewalks and maintain the medians, while the city would use the money to make improvements to the remaining three lanes.
The city will benefit from the project through growth, new jobs and increased tax revenue generated by this growth, along with the enhanced quality of life created through the presence of a thriving university.
The university expects the 4,500 more students to bring in an additional $139 million to Victoria's economy each year, in addition to creating 3,800 jobs.
The university's growth is gaining momentum with the construction of the new learning center underway and plans for more dorms and classrooms being finalized.
The university also could be partnering with the Victoria school district to use the proposed sports events complex a few blocks down from the campus if voters approve the district's $141 million bond package.
Not having a safe way for students to cross the street will slow this growth momentum.
Everyone benefits from a safe and educated workforce that can grow the economy.
Everyone benefits when agencies, such as the city and the university, work together to make the growth happen.
The City Council is expected to discuss the street plan at a future meeting. In the meantime, Victoria residents need to talk to their council representatives and encourage them to keep working toward completing the street project. It will make for a better, safer Victoria.
This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.