Earlier this month, a three-vehicle accident occurred on the stretch of Seawolf Parkway that runs through the heart of Texas A&M at Galveston, leaving a damaged tanker truck carrying dangerous, flammable cargo within 300 feet of an academic building where students attend class.

Fortunately, there was no catastrophic explosion or toxic release, but this threat remains as long as hazardous cargo is transported through the center of our campus. It was with this issue of safety in mind that the Texas Legislature addressed the expansion of that same road along its route between Galveston students’ residence halls and their classrooms.

The legislature’s decision to act came after many months of local negotiations which are still ongoing. We are fully committed to that process.

This road, and its bridge, existed when George Mitchell donated the land which straddles Seawolf Parkway. Texas A&M at Galveston was assured for decades that its eventual replacement would reroute this designated hazardous material corridor around the campus.

After Hurricane Ike, there were serious discussions of moving the entire campus to Naval Station Ingleside near Corpus Christi due to safety concerns. With assurance of a future bridge that would bypass the campus, Texas A&M and the Texas Legislature decided to stay in Galveston and invest heavily in modernizing and improving our campus, as well as growing the number of students we serve.

Our mission is to educate students to benefit the future of Texas, and we cannot do that without first ensuring the safety of our students and employees. We have worked extensively with representatives of the city and county over the last two years to plan for replacement infrastructure, which would include an elevated bridge and four-lane road, always maintaining our position that the new plan must ensure the safety of our students.

These conversations proved difficult. The initial cost we were asked to provide to this project was $8 million, a figure that ballooned to over twice that amount in the last two months. Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature prohibited us from expending funds allocated for educational purposes for a bridge. We needed help sorting these problems out.

Thanks to support from county Commissioner Ken Clark and Sen. Larry Taylor, a special request for Texas Department of Transportation funding was introduced to cover the county’s request. This request was not funded along with all other transportation-related requests.

With support from Texas A&M University and The Texas A&M University System, we persisted throughout the rest of the legislative session to raise awareness and build support for funding. In the end, the Transportation Budget Conferees from both chambers decided that all parties — local, state and possibly federal — needed more time to find a solution.

We love this island home and ask for your support. Texas A&M at Galveston wants a new bridge that accelerates regional economic growth and we know there is a way to build the bridge while keeping Galveston’s students safe. The challenges have been frustrating and complex, but we are committed to working with all state and local officials to make the bridge a reality in a safe and responsible way.

Col. Michael E. Fossum, is CEO of Texas A&M University at Galveston.

(12) comments

Don Schlessinger

Show us the money then we'll know you're interested in student safety and welfare.

Rick Altemose

Yes, a bridge around the campus of A&M would be better. No, the money for such a bridge doesn't exist. But I was hoping the Colonel would tell us why he went behind everybody's back to scuttle the only bridge he is going to get. But, no joy.
From my point of view, A&M Galveston wants to have it their way while contributing exactly nothing but obstruction. Maybe that offer to move the whole campus to Naval Station Ingleside is still open?

Connie Patterson

Being a multi generational Aggie, I really want to believe you, but this just doesn’t pass the smell test. Why didn’t you use your considerable influence with the legislature to get additional funds for the rerouting of the bridge instead of inserting a special rider to essentially block it. Shame on you

Don Schlessinger

Well said!

Miceal O'Laochdha

Col. Fossum is providing a very useful learning experience for his cadets and other students with this column. Tag anything you want done that is meeting resistance to the word "Safety" and no one will dare to argue with you. This is especially effective on ships.

As for the less-than-subtle reference to moving the campus to Ingleside, perhaps a discussion about "Safety" with the survivors of Hurricane Harvey in that neighborhood would be useful.

David Schuler

Killing an important project, and then hiding behind spin can now rightfully be called, "Playing Fossum". TAMUG contributes zero to Galveston, except for business at the Jack in the Box and Sonic restaurants on Broadway. Moving all heavy industry from the island to Pelican would help separate the two and allow Galveston to thrive as a tourist / heritage cultural destination while maintaining and growing the tax base and availability of jobs. Hey, the current campus might even make a good business center for marine startups.

Steve Fouga

This column is nothing but whining. If you want something different from what's been proposed, then negotiate in good faith, and be prepared to pay if the negotiations don't go your way.

As for A&M leaving for Corpus, where they already have a campus, so what? I get absolutely nothing from their presence on Pelican Island. If their departure paves the way for cooperative, enthusiastic, taxpaying commercial interests on Pelican Island, I'm all for it. I'm all for higher education, too, but I don't really care where it happens.

Charlotte O'rourke

Texas A&M University, in its press release below, stated this legislative session is the best financial legislative session EVER for the university.

$91.5 million NEW revenues are expected.

If safety were a primary concern, safety would have been FIRST on the A&M legislative agenda and the bridge funded for the Galveston campus.

I’m disappointed that A&M couldn’t make a FREE phone call to the city and county leaders to give them a heads-up on blocking a major, long awaited Galveston County project.

I think most would agree with the goal of moving the public road, but disagree with the priorities, methods, financial commitment, and lack of involvement/respect shown our local community leaders who have worked tirelessly on this important project.

Thanks to Mayes Middleton for being against this political maneuvering. One hopes other state officials will speak up and help fund this ECONOMIC AND SAFETY project.

Texas A&M Has Best Financial Legislative Session Ever
by tamus | May 18, 2019 | System News

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M University is poised to have a winning legislative session, according to preliminary estimates of actions taken Friday by Texas House and Senate conferees who are negotiating the final touches on the FY 2020-21 state budget.

The conferees approved approximately $91.5 million in new money for Texas A&M University for the next two-year budget cycle, as compared to about $20 million in new money in the 2017 legislative session. The conferees’ final report must be approved with floor votes by the House of Representatives and the Senate before going to Governor Greg Abbott for his consideration. The session ends May 27.

“This is the best financial session that Texas A&M has ever had,” said Chancellor John Sharp.”

... continues

Gary Miller

When did 300 ft become un safe. The same kind of traffic passes within less than 100 ft of ISD schools and businesses all over the Island. If A&M needs a greater safety margin they need to move.

Steve Fouga

And let's be honest, safety can't be top-of-mind when choosing to locate on virtually the lowest-lying piece of land in one of the most flood-prone, hurricane-prone regions on earth.

Charlotte O'rourke

Gary, not sure if this was to my comment about “economic and safety project” or just a general comment. To me the safety issue is the deteriorating bridge (over time) and the continued failure to replace it ..... the safety issue is not the actual public road and transporting products. I agree it is no different than anywhere else, and continues as the project is stalled. So the excuse made no real sense.

If I could choose any bridge, I would have chosen the land bridge as it would reduce costs of dredging and over time should pay for itself. But in reality cost is always an issue.

Anyway, if A&M paid for the road or used their leverage for more funding, I would be for moving the road to allow A&M to grow. I’m not anti-A&M but anti-method and excuses used to stall this project.

Miceal O'Laochdha

That tanker truck of "dangerous, flammable cargo", and every other one like it, pass down Broadway and 51st or Harborside Dr. everyday. A bridge routed around TAMUG will not change that in any way. So, we must presume Col. Fossum puts a greater premium on the "Safety" of himself and his charges than he does for the residents of Galveston. Apparently, these trucks present a clear and present danger for him but, for the rest of us, no problem. Looks like his damage control column turned out to just be a bigger shovel to dig a deeper hole...

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