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.