City Council to discuss Ben Wilson project
Sept. 10, 2017 at 9:06 p.m.
Updated Sept. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.
After almost two years of discussion, the City Council will be asked to give a preliminary go-ahead to a project University of Houston-Victoria leaders say is critical to the campus' growth.
The plan would reduce Ben Wilson Street from five lanes to three to boost safety for students at UHV and give the campus a more cohesive feel as it expands to the east.
The project has long been planned by university officials, but it hit a speed bump this summer when some council members spoke against slowing traffic speeds on Ben Wilson Street.
Tuesday, university officials will be given the chance to ease council members' concerns before they decide whether to approve the project.
"Overall, our primary concern is to make that street crossable - safely," said Vic Morgan, president of UHV.
The project calls for dropping speeds on the 45-mph road and reducing it to three lanes to accommodate 8-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of the road. There would also be 20-foot medians landscaped with trees and clock towers.
The plan also calls for the university to improve the drainage along Ben Wilson Street. During Hurricane Harvey, the street was a raging river.
Because some council members voiced concerns about the project, the university will provide responses to each of their questions, Morgan said. During Tuesday's meeting, Morgan said he also plans to discuss the value of the project to the community as a whole.
The university currently has 1,500 students, but officials plan to grow to 6,000 in the future, he said. To accommodate the growth, the university is planning to build several new buildings near Ben Wilson Street, which means hundreds of students will be forced to cross it every day.
"If you think about what the economic impact is of 6,000 students, it's going to be pretty significant in the community," he said.
If all goes as planned, the university hopes to start construction as soon as possible, he said. The City Council will have to vote on a contract between the city and the university before the project moves forward.