The Ben Wilson Street corridor improvement project, which will serve as an entryway for the University of Houston-Victoria, appears to be moving forward.
The project, which was first discussed in 2015, has been stalled during years of conversations, changes and roadblocks.
The City Council voted Tuesday to continue with plans for the project, which includes narrowing the street to from five lanes to three and building 8-foot-wide sidewalks and a through corridor for students to cross, with the caveat of a final review of the project’s design at the end of the year.
Despite the move forward, some residents and council members expressed continued resistance to the project Tuesday.
Victoria resident Paul Morrison asked if adequate attention has been given to the drainage issue.
“I’m old enough to remember when Ben Wilson was new, and almost immediately with the first heavy rain, it flooded,” he said. “From what I can determine, it has continued to be the same since the ’60s.”
Morrison said three or four weeks after Hurricane Harvey, he found the area to be “a lake,” and he said a great deal of attention to the drainage issue needs to be given to the project.
The Council met in executive session for about 30 minutes before returning to the topic.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first for newly appointed City Manager Jesús Garza, who began his role with the city Monday. He addressed the drainage issue, saying, “This project will not solve the drainage issue on Red River and Ben Wilson. The goal of this project is to not make the drainage situation any worse.”
The Council voted to move forward with the project with the agreement they would be given a chance to review the design and make sure the drainage issue was addressed.
“Council wants the opportunity to review the design later on when that is finished before everything officially moves into the hands of UHV,” said Thomas Gwosdz, the city’s attorney. According to a potential timeline for the project, the design plans should be finished by the end of the calendar year.
The total project budget is $7 million, according to the contract, though Mayor Rawley McCoy cautioned that could change if measures to recognize drainage issues hadn’t already been budgeted in.
Also Tuesday, the council approved a motion regarding the Crestwood Drive reconstruction project, which will redo a half-mile stretch of the street between Laurent and Ben Jordan streets and includes a new concrete road, water and sewer lines, storm sewer improvements and sidewalks.
The council had delayed approval of the contract twice, taking time to discuss differently priced contracts that would take different amounts of time. They decided on the $4,136,157 contract with Brannan Paving Company. The project will take almost one year and eight months to complete.
Also, Director of Public Works Donald Reese presented the Capital Improvements Program, a plan that outlines the potential timeline and expenditure details of public works projects to occur within the next five years.
With a high number of suggested changes from council members, including changing when certain projects begin, Reese and Garza will discuss the program and bring it back to the council in a later work session.