By Matt Pierce Briscoe
Last week we began looking into a stretch of roadway that is slated to be included on this years bond package that is slated to go before voters this November. In question is the section of Rodd Field Road that is yet to be built that would extend from Yorktown to Oso Creek and eventually connect to the regional parkway that is still in development. The proposal would cost city taxpayers over $4 million dollars right now as opposed to somewhere in the ballpark of a few million dollars a few years down the road when it is actually needed. So the big question is why do we need it right now?
The real answer is that “we” really don’t seem to need it right this minute—developers do. Numerous residents and city leaders feel that the bond money would be better off spent along Yorktown Road which is already heavily traveled and serves as one of the main roads into and out of Flour Bluff. On Saturday, it was clear that Hurricane Hanna was a warning call for officials who are grappling with the problem and for residents who have to live with the potential impacts of the already heavily traveled and dangerous section of road and for many it was clear that a road to nowhere is less important than a potential evacuation route.
Last week Corpus Christi City Councilman Gil Hernandez advocated for the project to be place on this year’s bond package, which voters will be asked to approve in November. Considering that we are in the middle of a pandemic, a soft economy that is seeing people out of work, lower revenue estimates and now a hurricane, it is likely that voters will think a little bit longer and harder than they usually do when it comes to voter approved bond projects. for just those reasons alone it seems that the city would want to opt towards bond packages that appeal to more than just a handful of voters and campaign contributors.
Hernandez, who took recent campaign contributions from many of the land developers who have a vested interest in the project’s completion did reach out to the Southside Light News last week explaining his point of view. He says that he has been advocating for the Rodd Field project since even before he was on City Council and that the project is something that he has always taken seriously.
“I have been on board with this since the very beginning,” Councilman Hernandez said. “This has been something that I have been fighting for for a long time.”
In last week’s council meeting Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb pointed out the project, if completed right now would basically be a road leading to nowhere but to a dead end at Oso Creek. Mayor McComb argued the fact saying that the road would basically be a road leading through a bunch of mesquite trees where “nothing but jack rabbits” live. But Councilman Hernandez sees it differently. He says that to him it is a safety issue.
Hernandez points out how the project would create a secondary exit from Rancho Vista, a near by development built by campaign contributor Bart Braselton. The argument is that by adding the road Rodd Field connector now, at a cost of over $4 million dollars to city taxpayers would make it safer for residents attempting to leave Rancho Vista who are pulling out onto Yorktown.
Proponents argue that by building the new Rodd Field project now, those who live in the Rancho Vista development could be able to divert to the controlled intersection at Rodd Field and Yorktown instead of being forced to wait and cross out into traffic. However, that road (no pun intended) goes two ways—the same danger exists for residents all up and down Yorktown regardless of where they come out at and it doesn’t benefit those who live in places like Airline Estates or those who live off of Krypton or in the other new developments currently under construction. From an outsider looking in, the project only benefits a single subdivision and a few selected developers who have a vested interest in the completion of the project.
Some of the developers with a vested interested in the Rodd Field project area include names like Braselton, Salazar and Tamez (Artesian Fountain Estates, LLC.). All of which seem to have gotten cozy with the well-established pay-to-play political system over the years and it seems that all of them have a stake in the new extension project for one reason or another—and rightfully so.
The sooner that the project gets moved forward, the sooner that Braselton would get easier ingress and egress from one of their signature communities and local developer Eloy Salazar could get start on a new development that has been in the deck of cards for at least 10 years. For Braselton, the trade off would be a new way in and out of their existing development. For others, they could start the groundwork for another payday. What would this mean for taxpayers? It means that you pay now for the developers to get a road so they can get to work making more lots, instead of making them wait and let the state pick up a bulk of the tab. For taxpayers, there really is no big win regardless of how they spin it.
But then there is the Yorktown improvement option that might could benefit more people and make travel a whole lot safer for everybody.
On any given day hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles travel the narrow, torn up stretch of Yorktown Road between Flour Bluff and Rodd Field. For many who live in Flour Bluff Yorktown is seen as a vital transportation route that they can’t live without. But many of them fear for their safety.
Beyond Rodd Field Road there are no shoulders and the roadway becomes extremely narrow. Not only that, at night the road is dimly lit and that makes matters worse. As the new Del Mar College South Campus brings a promise of educational opportunities for students from the Flour Bluff community, it is highly likely that new partnerships will require transportation via school bus. At the very least, the campus means more traffic along Yorktown.
We measured the various drop off’s on the edge of Yorktown Drive and found some of them as much as 4 inches—easily capable of flipping a car. That alone poses a public safety risk. But imagine there was an emergency vehicle from one of the two fire stations coming up from behind you and you have to yield to them along the narrow, two lane road. If you are not careful, you could easily end up as part of the problem. Oftentimes you see police officers working traffic along the narrow and congested route. The lack of space poses an undue threat to them while they are out doing their job. Not to mention when how daily commercial and private traffic clog up the two lane roadway that is teeming with development adds to the problem. The common sense route seems to be obvious.
On Tuesday, the Corpus Christi City Council is set to hear more argument about the proposal and there City Manager Peter Zanoni is expected to have a response for developers to see how much money they are going to possibly pitch in for the development of the new part of Rodd Field that will for at least the next several years lead into a field of “mesquite trees and jack rabbits,” as Mayor Joe McComb mentioned. How the city council responds is yet to be determined and if it does end up making the ballot the voters have a choice to make—get streets in your area of town fixed or pay for a road leading to nowhere? Those are the only choices you have, unless cooler heads are willing to examine the reality of their decisions. Good for a few doesn’t mean it is the best decision for all and time will tell whose interests city council has at heart.
As for how the money actually gets allocated on the new bond proposal, that answer seems more than just pretty obvious. But city council will have to agree and let land developers fend for themselves on this one—and that might be difficult when “pay-to-play is here to stay,” as the great Washington D.C., saying goes.