CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Some changes are coming to southbound Harbor Bridge exits, and roads connected to those exits, in an effort to stop wrong-way drivers from accessing the bridge.
Work began in earnest to re-stripe two roadways leading up to two ramps Wednesday. In a news release and briefing to the Corpus Christi City Council, the Texas Department of Transportation said it would reconfigure sections of Power and Padre streets into single-lane, one-way roads.
Additional measures by TxDOT include more signage at these two exits, as well as a crosshatching of the street.
Wednesday, one business owner in the SEA District said the solution proposed by TxDOT still isn't enough, while another says his business has suffered since one exit was closed over a week ago.
Bill Durrill owns Concrete Street Amphitheater and Brewster Street Icehouse, as well as several properties in the SEA District, he said his family has owned land in that area for over 40 years.
He said he supports shutting down both the Power and Padre street off-ramps, with the proper signage and education to the public and that when concerts are held those ramps are shut down to protect thousands of people walking to the concert venues.
"We privately hire off-duty CCPD to close this ramp when we have shows because it’s such a direct shot into our pedestrians that are accessing, or ticket holders that are coming to our event. This area has thousands of people on show days that are crossing this path and this is such a 90-degree shot off the ramp that we have to shut it and we have to shut down the next one also so that we protect our customers, our ticket customers coming to our events on the day of events."
Those event closures begin before the concerts and last until they are over, Durrill said.
"It's going to be shut down permanently in two years when the bridge goes down anyway," Durrill said. "This is more danger than it is good access to the area. I've had my buildings hit by cars that have lost their brakes and gone through these guardrails and hit my buildings over here. Over the, in the past 10-15 years thank goodness there hasn't been anybody in our offices whenever those cars went through the walls."
Durrill said that he, as the largest property owner in the area, has not been approached by TxDOT, or the City of Corpus Christi, to discuss possible solutions, but he understands the traffic patterns of the area.
"This is always a dangerous exit right here (Padre Street exit) because they're, they're coming off so fast off the bridge and when people are trying to come this way it's kind of like a whack-a-mole on trying to you know get across making sure that you've got enough clearance to do it," he said while giving 6 Investigates a tour of the area. "So this exit has always needed to be closed, but that's where everybody needs to be going to the left and exiting downtown."
Exiting downtown will require solutions, signage, and leadership, Durrill said.
As it stands now, one business owner says his business is down 70 percent since the Power Street exit was temporarily closed.
"This one exit right here people from Portland coming over can't get to us," said Page, the owner of Hogemeyer's BBQ Barn. "You have to do a Formula One turn to get off of the bridge right now. But now today it's closed. Yeah, we've seen a third of our business in the last week and a half since they've closed off this exit ramp."
"Nobody's reached out, nobody's talked to me about any of this," Page added. "You know it's, it's a crime that they just they just flip a switch and they make a street one way the wrong way."
He said he has other ideas to stop wrong-way drivers and doesn't support closing the ramps. Those ideas range from lights that would trigger if a wrong-way driver were to turn down the roadway, to treadles and other measures.
Steve Arnold, the owner of The Mercantile, echoes Page's concerns.
"I want to add my disappointment to the lack of communication with businesses in the area," Arnold wrote. "I own Corpus Christi Mercantile on the corner of N. Tancahua and Belden. Right now, coming from the southside, our only option to get there is to take the Staples/Downtown exit, left of Staples to Winnebago to Padre to N. Tancahua. The other option is straight to Carancahua and North over 37 and to Padre. Under the plans I saw, we are totally shut off. Someone needs to get business input in the area."
Arnold says that TxDOT is responding to media pressure to take action.
Page and Durrill said the Department of Public Safety and TxDOT should have a business representative from the SEA District on its proposed wrong-way driver task force, which meets for the first time this week.
Changes to Padre and Power streets are not the only changes being made in an effort to help mitigate wrong-way drivers.
In an interview with 6 Investigates Tuesday, Corpus Christi District Engineer for TxDOT Valente Olivarez said additional signage was also being added to the Twigg and Broadway exits.
"Currently, we added a message board with a 'do not enter sign' and we're going to supplement with another message board as well," he said. "And put some more pavement markings on the ground as well we have arrows there as far as raised pavement markers. We're going to put some striping on the ground and some more raised pavement markers at least a couple of sets of those on Twigg and then up on Broadway Blvd. as well."
This action from TxDOT comes less than a month after KRIS 6 News published its first investigative special report 'Facing Danger' examining the impact of wrong-way drivers accessing the Harbor Bridge.
For more from this report, click HERE.