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Ingleside Takes TXDOT to Task Over Citizen Safety
By Mark Silberstein,
Ingleside Index At the intersection of Hwy 361 and Ave. J exists a potentially life-threatening situation, a lack of both adequate sidewalks and streetlights to illuminate the area where more and more pedestrians cross the road as the local population rises, especially as the result of new apartment complexes that have opened. It’s a major concern for Ingleside city officials given its proximity to the heavily trafficked N.O. Simmons Park. TXDOT is being pressed to do something about it before tragedy strikes.
By darkness of night a potential accident looms in the shadows, and the threat is near one of Ingleside’s most familiar public assets, N.O. Simmons Park. For some time, city officials have fretted over the lack of street lighting at the intersection of Hwy. 361 and Ave. J, expressing concern about so many apartment rental properties in the area and the risk of a pedestrian crossing those roads late at night, an accident victim waiting to happen.
But, as it turns out, that’s not the only roadway with inadequate illumination. At the February 28 City Council meeting discussion occurred involving the danger of darkness on Hwy 361 west of Main St. (FM 1069) all the way to the edge of businesses, nearly to the Union Pacific Railroad crossing, according to documents attached to the agenda that evening.
“The problem is that as this area is getting populated, and has more vehicle and pedestrian traffic, it needs to be more illuminated,” a summary of the concern was included along with the agenda item for discussion last month.
“On December 27, 2022, a request was submitted to TXDOT (Texas Department of Transportation),” the summary continued. “This spelled out the potential danger to vehicles and pedestrians in those areas and a meeting was set up to further discuss. Shortly after that there was evidence of TXDOT employees in the area. A second request was submitted shortly after for sidewalks along this area as well,” the document concluded.
Timing is everything. The annual ‘Round Up Days’ at the park opens the weekend of March 24 and sizable crowds make the potential for tragic consequences even greater.
City Manager Brenton Lewis updated council members, confirming his office had reached out to TXDOT on the issue, revealing an email requesting another meeting with the state agency had been disseminated the same day council met, February 28.
“I’m obviously the one that asked for this update,” remarked Councilman Steve Diehl, Place 5 as discussion began on the agenda item.
“TXDOT is getting beat up all over the state,” Diehl said, referencing what he’d seen and heard in recent media coverage surrounding the state department, the focus of the negative reporting having to do with funding of a laundry list of pending transportation projects.
“I believe it’s going to come down to who yells the loudest, who kicks the door down,” he added, instructing his comrades and Ingleside city management to advocate strongly for their needs if they expected TXDOT to pay attention.
“What you have to do is drive at nighttime,” Diehl’s discussion of the topic continued, explaining that he’s witnessed many people walking in the roadway or near it late in the evening, traveling from the extended stay hotels up Hwy. 361 to the H.E.B. grocery for food. “And I’ve seen some really close calls,” he advised.
“The lighting on 1069 is fantastic. But when you look down 361, when it’s dark you’ve got a lot of traffic,” said Diehl, crediting the police department for their aggressive efforts to slow the speed of motorists in the area.
“I hope to God, pray to God that we don’t have a fatality,” Diehl warned. “It’s a fatality waiting to happen.”
Diehl emphasized time was of the essence, seeking the endorsement from Mayor Oscar Adame and others on the council that they would take any actions necessary or recommended by the City Manager if he felt it would expedite this cause.
“It’s going to be a fight and anyone who knows TXDOT, they may agree to something today in hopes that you get it in three years. Stay with it,” Diehl pressed Lewis and his staff. “Kick the doors down and do what you all do best,” he concluded.