City paves way for UHV corridor

The plan for new the new UHV corridor.

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.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter.

(7) comments

AdvocateEditorialBoard Staff
Victoria Advocate Editorial Board

Thank you, O.C. Garza, for all of the additional information on the project. We have reported on most of this through the past several years of news coverage, but your quick and direct responses to these questions are much appreciated.

Brian Vandale

If the college wants what's shown in the illustration above. Why is it costing the city anything? If I read correctly, the city sold the two outside lanes to the college. With the money from that transaction, the city would repair the other three lanes. I guess the city is going to waste money building the fancy mediums in the middle. I also agree with Glenn, the new city manager isn't doing anything different.

OC Garza

The way this agreement is written, UHV will pay for all the costs of this project. The City will manage the construction of the project but UHV will be paying for it.

Glenn Wilson

"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." -- Then don't do the project at all. This line of thinking is counterproductive and fiscally irresponsible. It makes no sense to tear up and rebuild a street, especially for this project, if it's to be left with a major problem. Then we either have the problem always or we tear up and redo the work at a later date; not smart or economical as long as we have the opportunity to do it right on the first attempt. I was under the impression that Mr. Garza would be bringing in new, more competent thinking, but his comment is 100% reflective of Victoria's past incompetent performances. For example, the underground utilities installation fiasco on Airline a few years ago. The city tore up Airline to install, I think, a sewer line, and as soon as it was finally complete and repaved it was torn up again to install another utility next to the new sewer line. As soon as that was done and repaved the street was torn up for yet another utility installation and then repaved again, for a total of three excavations and repavings along the same path. Just to be different, how about we avoid that scenario on Ben Wilson. You don't paint over rust just because it's cheaper than properly killing the rust, priming, then painting, because it isn't.

Brian Vandale

Well said Glenn

OC Garza

All construction projects in the City including this street project, are required to be “drainage neutral.” UHV is paying for the cost of this street project that meets all the drainage ordinances, as do the three buildings that UHV has under construction along Ben Wilson. Any drainage improvements to this area will be done by the City as a separate project when funding is available.

Comment deleted.
OC Garza

I spoke with our engineers and the drainage work left in that area will not require that Ben Wilson be redone. The drainage problem is that the area north of the UHV campus is like a bowl, so getting the drainage out the area will require larger box culverts and larger pipes. The drainage flows northward toward Sam Houston Dr, then eastward to past the railroad tracks and will require a lot of engineering. It goes without saying that this drainage project will be a very expensive project, but it will not affect the street work proposed for Ben Wilson.

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