Hey all you Tuna Does Vegas fans -- TxDOT has a surprise for you. Seems the state department of transportation has decided to close all southbound lanes on I-45 this weekend, meaning those of you with tickets for opening night should leave around noon on Thursday in order to make the Friday night show on time. Anyone planning to see the last weekend of Island Etc. at the Strand Theatre's Cabaret or Moody Gardens' Circo Comedia show is in the same boat. Ditto Schilitterbahn groupies.
With precious few days before kids head back to school (and the island's summer season comes to an unofficial end), James W. Cordell, vice president of Galveston.com, says the closing will be a major economic blow to the island's teetering economy.
"Galveston tourism is already down significantly this summer and this is just another hit that we could really, really do without," Cordell tells Hair Balls. "The thing is, if you ever go to Galveston, you already know it's a bottleneck around Clear Lake under the best of conditions. If they close all southbound lanes and have people have to go on a feeder road, I would avoid it at all costs and I'm sure most other people would, too."
Ironically, TxDOT routinely schedules heavy construction work during weekends, because Saturdays and Sundays generally see lighter traffic flow. (They don't want to interfere with folks commuting back and forth to work during the week.) The trouble is Galveston's travel pattern is just the opposite. Weekends are heavy travel days for I-45 South, not weekdays.
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Island officials have been trying to discuss the situation with TxDOT since they were notified of the closing last week. "We've had no luck," says Cordell. "The Convention and Visitors Bureau, who we work with, has tried everything. But [TxDOT] has said there's nothing they can do. They have to demolish a bridge in order to keep their project going and apparently the only time they can demolish the bridge is this weekend."
"We're here, just two or three weeks before school is back in session and I just don't see why we can't do this another time. This is the opening weekend of The Grand Opera House's new season. They were down for the count last season because of Ike, and this is a hit to them. It's also one of the last Shilitterbahn weekends before school starts."
TxDOT's already said no to the CVB and Galveston.com's pleas for a schedule change. Is there anything else they can do? "We're asking people to please call TxDOT and ask them to put off the closing." Well, okay, if you think it will help - call TxDOT at 713-802-5071.
(Hair Balls contacted TxDOT, but received no reply to our request for information.)