Included in the more than 300-page report the nonprofit Vision Galveston recently issued, was two items of particular interest. Both sections gave recommendations about how to improve Harborside Drive and the surrounding area.
Harborside Drive is a heavily trafficked route, particularly on days cruise ships arrive and depart, and also runs through the University of Texas Medical Branch campus. Not only should the changes improve traffic flow, but officials say it will also improve safety.
Consistently, with the growth of the cruise industry, we have had the opinion for several years that Harborside Drive should be as essential a gateway onto the island as Broadway, and improvements would be not only welcomed but needed.
Some key points from the Vision Galveston recommendations:
• While improvements have been made over the years to the look of the area around Harborside in The Strand area, the recommendations noted it still is not very friendly to people crossing from the cruise terminal and downtown.
“Pedestrian improvements including wider sidewalks and improved roadway crossings would benefit the study area and the Downtown Historic Strand and create a better connection to the Cruise Ship Terminal and the Mitchell Historic Properties development on Piers 19-22.”
• Harborside Drive itself does not provide a good impression for first-time, or repeat, visitors to Galveston.
“Additionally, the road is visually unappealing, with more unbroken pavement and fewer trees and plants than most other roads in Galveston.”
We can add that it also has a history of flooding faster than many other areas on the island.
• The report also noted the average annual daily traffic along Harborside increased from 12,600 in 2010 to 16,528 in 2016.
Included in any plans to improve traffic flow along Harborside should be a look at getting an elevated road over the railroad tracks. To have one of the city’s main arteries cut by a rail line makes little sense to us.
A second interesting notion is to create areas where people can view the workings of the port.
There are several other parts of the report that point to recommendations that might improve Harborside, such as medians that would make it easier for people to get out of their cars and walk. There are also suggestions to improve traffic, such as providing more parking closer to the causeway and providing shuttle services from those sites.
But the main point we get and have offered in the past, the link — for tourists — between the cruise terminal and downtown is a weak one.
Investing into making that link stronger would be money well spent.
• Dave Mathews