Galveston’s $6 million plan to put amenities on the seawall is solid, and the City Council is right to be moving ahead with it.
The seawall is Galveston’s greatest asset and warrants a significant investment.
But before we get into the details of why that’s so, let’s acknowledge that this is not what voters approved in 2010 when they authorized a parking fee to pay for amenities on the seawall.
What voters approved was a plan to set money aside to build and maintain amenities such as showers and bathrooms.
The plan now is to use grants and federal transit dollars to build much of that infrastructure and to use the revenue from the parking fees to help maintain it.
That’s not the same thing, and voters, who eventually will have to decide whether to continue authorizing the parking fee, should note the difference.
Inevitably, people are going to get these two plans confused.
Those who want to think clearly about the city’s policy on the seawall will have to keep them straight.
The $6 million plan is largely the work the Goodman Corp., the city’s transportation consultants.
It began with a transit study in 2006, long before voters approved the parking fee.
The plan was designed to improve mobility along the seawall. It includes two new bus lines serving 35 stops on Seawall Boulevard.
Some of the amenities that islanders and visitors have long hoped for — public restrooms and showers, for example — would be included at seven major bus stops designated as visitor stations.
New signage and landscaping are included, and the longer-range goal is to remake Seawall Boulevard in the image of the pavilion at Fort Crockett. That project was completed in 2011.
The federal money for this plan depends on the city having a bus line serving the area. Most of the riders would be tourists. This is new territory for the city. Galveston’s existing bus system was designed to move residents and workers, rather than tourists.
The cost of setting up those two routes would largely be covered by federal dollars. But even if the city receives a $1.8 million grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council for five new buses, the city is still looking at more than $900,000 to cover capital costs for the buses and seawall improvements.
This is worth doing just because so much of what Galveston is — its quality of life as well as its business — is tied up with the basic notion that visiting the seawall is a pleasant experience. That means that the place looks nice. It also means that traffic is not gridlocked on summer weekends.
Galvestonians have long recognized that fact and have had a series of plans to improve the seawall during the past 40 years.
This is worth doing, and it’s time to get this done.