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Susan Fennewald

"Proponents of the project argue a land bridge would help spur develop on Pelican Island because businesses rely on rail to transport goods, Sullivan said"
And why is development of Pelican Island such a good idea? Most of the land is owned by the Port of Houston or the Port of Galveston - neither of which pay taxes!!! They would use tax money to build a railroad bridge that, at best, would be used by entities that don't pay taxes. That sounds like a money losing proposition for the taxpayer.

Charlotte O'rourke


People say similar things about Texas A&M and UTMB where you work as neither pay taxes. UTMB also receives major tax support as well as not paying property taxes.

The philosophy you stated - if applied fairly to all - would compromise not only your job but health care as a whole.

I don’t agree with your philosophy - not for something as important as healthcare and its jobs and not for something as important as maritime commerce and its jobs.

Pelican island currently has an obsolete bridge and needs a new one. The question should be which is the best option to choose to meet current and future needs.

Susan Fennewald

Normally I'm a strong supporter of maritime activities. I prefer "real" jobs to low pay tourism jobs. And I think diversification away from tourism makes us more resilient.
I do not support a container terminal in Galveston, and I do not support endless development for the sake of development. The goal of a container terminal is have the fewest employees possible. If you're not going to have a container terminal than there's no use for a railroad bridge.

Susan Fennewald

I'm actually looking for feedback from the maritime folks...

It seems to me that historically ports were situation by location - a natural harbor or bay that provided protection. The city grew up around the port activity. But modern industrial ports are NOT located at these historic areas. San Francisco bay had a historic port in San Francisco - but the modern industrial port is in Oakland (fewer people nearby and more space). New York City was the historic port, but New Jersey has the modern industrial port for that bay system (fewer people nearby and more space). Galveston is the historic port, but Houston has the modern industrial port (fewer people nearby and more space).

Galveston's residents live too close to their port and the amount of space is too limited for Galveston to have a modern industrial port. We need to be the boutique port that we are.

Charlotte O'rourke


I’m glad you have always supported maritime jobs as they are important to diversification of our Galveston economy from strictly tourist related business and UTMB.

However, I think you have 3 incorrect assumptions.

1. Only container terminals use rail.
2. POHA and POG own the MAJORITY of property on Pelican Island. There are many other property owners that make up the majority of property on Pelican Island.
3. Container terminals don’t create good paying jobs with benefits.

It is extremely difficult to be pro maritime jobs without support of any type of containerization business.

In the past, Galveston’s container terminal was located at Pier 10. Unfortunately, we lost the business, revenue, and the excellent jobs that went with that business.

The bridge options need to be carefully considered and the best option chosen based on facts, cost benefit analysis and not based on assumption that may or may not prove to be true.

Susan Fennewald

Now I think you're being disingenuous and totally misleading.
1) Rail would be primarily for a container terminal. Who else would have enough use for rail to justify the cost of a bridge?
2) The Port of Houston and the Port of Galveston do own the majority of the land to be used for maritime purposes (other than as a dredge spoil). A&M and the feds (Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard?) each own a large amount of land on Pelican Island leaving about 1500 acres for other maritime purposes. The Port of Houston owns about 1000 acres. The Port of Galveston or the city of Galveston own about 350 acres. And the final 140 acres is owned by about 10 different companies. So since the ports own 90% of the land, I think it’s fair to say that they own the majority of land under discussion.
(This was based on a fairly quick perusal of CAD records and is probably not 100% accurate but fairly close.)
3) I’ll admit that container terminals create some jobs. But a container terminal in Texas City would be just as good for Galveston workers as one on Pelican Island – and you wouldn’t need to build an expensive bridge. It’s an easy commute to Texas City for port workers who want to live in Galveston. After all, so many people who work in Galveston live elsewhere, there’s no reason that Galveston residents can’t work elsewhere.
So –I still believe that the railroad bridge is for a container terminal. And I am not in favor of putting a container terminal in Galveston. There is no other historic port that has a large modern industrial port in such proximity to its downtown and its residents. Galveston’s industrial port needs to stay in Houston.

Gary Miller

I can't see how turning the Galveston ship channel into a dead end cul de sac would improve the value of Galveston's port business or Pelican Island. Barge traffic would be greatly hampered. Barge traffic would likely bypass Galveston. Without the flushing effect of tidal flow Galveston's ship channel could become the biggest sewer in Texas.

Charlotte O'rourke

Any transportation requiring the bridge to open now would need to go around and is one of the negatives of this land bridge option ....

One of the positives would be less silting, less dredging maintenance and costs. Oxygenation and flow would need to be assessed and I think that was in the port discussion.

I’m not advocating a specific bridge option .... just stating that all options -pros and cons- need to be assessed in an objective manner. This is an important decision that must be made because we need a new bridge and this bridge will impact our future.

Steve Fouga

I wonder how the land bridge concept would affect the ongoing Corps storm surge studies.

Charlotte O'rourke

Excellent question ... hopefully it will be addressed by the Corp.

The importance of rail to Pelican Island development is not in dispute. To me the question, is should the rail be added now or later, and if later wouldn’t we have the same issues of needing a land bridge. Would it cost more later?

How will we fund the costs, leverage federal funds, get property owners and entities to contribute, get community support?

I still have lots of questions .... but the importance of to Pelican Island rail isn’t one of them!

Charlotte O'rourke

Sorry. Typos taken out below.

Excellent question ... hopefully it will be addressed by the Corp.

The importance of rail to Pelican Island development is not in dispute. To me the question is: should the rail be added now or later, and if later wouldn’t we have the same issues of needing a bridge. Would it cost more later?

How will we fund the costs, leverage federal funds, get property owners and entities to contribute, get community support?

I still have lots of questions .... but the importance of Pelican Island rail isn’t one of them!

Steve Fouga

Charlotte, is it your understanding that the land bridge would have literally no cut for water flow, making the Harbor a cul-de-sac as described above by Gary?

Charlotte O'rourke

Steve, no, I think they have some type of idea for flow, but definitive answers should be forthcoming as they work through the plans. I based my answer on discussions at the last port meeting.

Charlotte O'rourke

Susan, My point was rail can be used by businesses that we want to grow besides a container terminal.

Container terminals can move containers by truck ... though rail would be very nice.

Galveston has moved containers through a container terminal with no impact on residents in the past. Containers are moved today through various port businesses with no major issues.

On Pelican Island, the POG and POHA own about 500 and 1100 acres of undeveloped acres respectively. The rest is owned by some other entity. How big is Pelican Island? Look it up and do the math.

Bottom line - you want a “boutique” port and I want a niche operating port.
Let’s each have our opinion and move on.

Susan Fennewald

What's a niche operating port and how does it differ from a boutique port? Maybe I was using the wrong term. Maybe I want a niche operating port too.

Richard Moore

It seems to me that because there is no definitive "land use" plan for the POG & POH land on Pelican Island, the specifics of the type of replacement bridge are going to remain elusive.

POG should complete its planning process, in conjunction with the City and articulate the land uses for POG as well as POH properties there. POH can only develop their property to the extent that the City and POG concur (POH has nice property, but only usable to the extent that Galveston agrees to support transportation infrastructure).

Once the land uses have been developed and vetted by ALL the stakeholders - primarily the Citizens of Galveston - then the definitive nature of the "bridge(s)" will fall into place.


Charlotte O'rourke

Richard, I agree that planning for port growth and success are crucial. After listening to the last port meeting, I think the port is on track to explore options for rail and explain its significance instead of just seeking a vehicular bridge without considering rail options for future port growth.

Rail is needed for a strong competitive port of the future, and the lack of rail on Pelican Island is one of the issues that has limited growth in the past and prevented repositioning of cargo and additional growth of business.

Susan, I think you meant niche port.

Bottom line - I want the community leaders to address both vehicular and rail traffic. The actual best options .... I am not sure of yet. I am sure the options will become clearer through our community leaders discussions.

But if we want a successful port, the concept of needing rail is, in my mind, indisputable.

Diane Brodie

Port of Houston doesn't want development on Pelican Island that will compete with their activities. They are a big block to this project being defined. Is there a rail entity that can contribute if they want rail? They can build over water just like the rail that comes onto the island but they also need a raised bridge. However you don't get tall ships going through that pass so without rail the bridge could be tall enough for barge traffic with no need for a raised bridge. Just let the sailboats go around.

Charlotte O'rourke

The south side of the channel on Galveston Island currently has rail. Susan asked for an example of some other type of cargo besides a “container terminal” that moves by rail. My answer would be bulk cargo - dry or liquid.

I’m sure there is ongoing discussion on how to fund this project and how to get financial support from a variety of sources. Our commissioners and officials are pretty savvy.

I’m just excited to hear the public discussion as when the paper first printed the 3 bridge options - my first thought/question was - where is the rail and will it come later? If it is planned to come in a secondary stage and not with the current proposal, I would like hear their discussions on costs, timeline, type, next steps, etc. by commissioners and other involved participants.

Everyone have a Happy and Blessed Holiday!

Bill Cochrane

I was also wondering about a railroad when the new bridge proposals first came about. It was reported that the present bridge is old and needs to be replaced.
The idea was a new bridge high enough so a draw bridge would not be needed. And the new bridge/road would be built away from A&M. Now, A&M doesn’t like a road going through their campus. (Note, both the bridge and A&M were built about the same time. Back then it was nice/preferred by A&M to have a road coming to their front door.) But what about the trains, I thought? You can’t put a railroad on a bridge like that because there is not room enough for the approach or descending side. Here is what I suspect was going to happen. The new bridge would be built as planned, without a railroad. Then, the need for a railroad would be brought up, and – Surprise, the old bridge really isn’t all that bad. It’s OK for a train weighing a gazillion pounds. Whala! We have a new bridge AND a railroad.

Charlotte O'rourke

I must admit your conspiracy theory is more entertaining than a second build phase for the rail, and I chuckled quite a while after I read it.

I originally posted because I hate to see a false equation and assumption-

Rail=container terminal

While container terminals use rail and trucks, I wanted Susan, who I know as a past council member and is generally supportive of maritime jobs, to understand that rail is used for other cargoes. If rail meant a container terminal there would be one in the port today as we have rail .... just no rail on Pelican Island.

While Susan doesn’t like containers, I think a container operation of appropriate scale and location would be a tremendous asset for Galveston and its port.

Our past leaders raised the island, built the seawall, created new land from swamp and dredge spoils (UTMB area & Lindale from the east end flats and Pelican Island) and we as a group are struggling on the issue of beautification of Broadway.

Thanks for the laugh! Sometimes we all need one.

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