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The South Staples Traffic Jam: What Exactly Can Be Done?


Matt Briscoe

Travel down South Staples between Saratoga and South Padre Island Drive on any given day and you quickly learn that it is little more than traffic mess. Business owners and managers in the area are complaining saying that something needs to be done to alleviate the stress on the roadway and make it more accessible and safe for drivers and police are doing what they can to enforce traffic laws. But what is the problem and what can be done to fix the problem? 

We recently spent time with a traffic manager who offered to study the problem and tell us what can be done to relieve some of the stress on this part of South Staples for us. His recommendations seemed simple enough but according to him, those solutions are often more complicated to implement. 

Mark Compton has worked on projects in communities like Austin and Houston--both of which still have serious traffic issues. Compton says that what he sees here in Corpus Christi is very different than what is seen there. 

"What you have here is a set of problems that have been compounded by noneother than the drivers themselves," says Compton. "We have drivers becoming frustrated and blocking intersections, being in a hurry and causing accidents and then add to that mistimed traffic lights." 

Starting at South Padre Island Drive the problem begins on that end as drivers block the intersection turning towards the south side of town. Compton says that when drivers clog up the intersection like that, it sets off a chain reaction. 

"Drivers come off of SPID and often sit through 2-3 light cycles resulting in a 10 minute or longer delay," says Comoton. "During the afternoon hours it can and does get much worse." 

Comoton said that it is actually against the law in Texas to "Block the Box" as it is widely known.  "When a driver enters an intersection and is unable to travel all the way through, they prevent cross traffic movement, and endanger other travelers by blocking crosswalks and bike lanes," Compton says. "Blocking the box is unsafe, illegal and causes traffic congestion." 

He recommends that the city work with state officials to put up signage in the area that reminds drivers to not block intersections. Then he says, law enforcement can better beef up enforcement. 

"Then you have the Blanche Moore shopping center light in very close proximity to SPID which causes major traffic disruptions," Compton said. "These two lights at Williams and entering/exiting Blanche Moore were just horribly thought out, well intentioned ideas that worked fine for a time but now it is a very bad congestion factor." 

Another safety concern that Compton notes in that area is the CCRTA bus stop placement nearly right on top of the SPID intersection. 

"This needs to be addressed and quickly before something very bad happens," he says. "Drivers whip around when the busses are stopped and they block viewpoints and they really are creating a potentially catastrophic situation." 

Then he adds how closer to Holly Road things tend to straighten up a bit when it comes to blocking the intersection. But getting that far is often the problem. 

Compton notes that the problem here is often heading towards SPID and the traffic tie up that begins at Williams and lasts until SPID. 

"These lights are sensored and mistimed which causes serious issues upflow from the congestion point," Compton says. "But then again, it goes back to simple concepts of flow vs. reaction." 

"Between Holly and Saratoga are absolutely disastrous," he says. "Busses are doing exactly what they are intended to do but they are indeed creating a hazard." 

Compton said that he noted numerous near miss accidents as result of busses making sudden and frequent stops. His suggestion? Develop a strategic plan for more intermediate stations along the route and/or put in more stopping lanes for busses to pull off. 

Then at Saratoga his report notes that the intersection is simply too sharp for all of the turn lanes and very poorly lit and marked. As for here, Compton says that reflectors, high visibility markers and broader lanes are fairly simple solutions. But he says that for such work, it is likely that the state be involved largely because Saratoga is a state maintained roadway in a suburban area. 

While there do not seem to be any rock solid plans for improved safety mechanisms along South Staples, improvements are certainly something that Compton says needs to be addressed soon and for drivers and Business owners, soon can't come soon enough. 

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