“We’re here to give you an affirmative statement. We will be glad to work with you. We would be glad to see this program moving forward, and hopefully we can make it even better,” said Tom Niskala, Nueces County appointee to the RTA Board of Directors, at the February 1, 2016, meeting of the City of Corpus Christi Ad Hoc Residential Street Infrastructure Advisory Committee.
Did anyone hear that? Evidently the reporter from the Caller-Times somehow missed it because it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in his article about the meeting, which was printed on February 2, 2016. Maybe he heard it but didn’t include it. Maybe he included it, but someone on the editorial staff cut that tidbit out. Perhaps it isn’t something Mr. Whitehurst wants to hear since it is not in keeping with his opinions about the role of the RTA expressed in his column on January 31, 2016. Actually, it’s more in alignment with what Andy Taubman described in his forum piece printed in the Caller-Times on January 26, 2016.
Niskala explained that in 1986 about a million dollars went to street reconstruction out of the RTA budget. “That fund has increased to about $2.6 million in 2015 and $2.8 million in 2016 that goes directly to the City of Corpus Christi and gets deposited directly into the streets program.” He related other contributions the RTA has made to the city streets program, including the area around City Hall near the new RTA office building. “We’ve got some repairs to a few streets, and that includes Sam Rankin, Josephine, and Mexico. Those repairs will be $500 to $800 thousand depending on the approach. The RTA also participated in the improvements of Artesia and Mestina as a part of the Staples Street Station project. Those totaled about $900,000 on the RTA’s part,” Niskala said. He went on to explain that other projects included specific sidewalk, ADA, and street improvements, which totaled about $1.5 million in 2015.
“There’s been about $5 million in 2015 and about $4 million in 2016 that’s going into a variety of street, sidewalk, and ADA improvements in the area,” Niskala said of current contributions made into the street program.
“In the past, those projects were mutually agreed to by the city and the RTA. Somewhere along the line, that became a contribution into the city’s general revenue fund. More recently, it now goes directly into the streets program, and it’s a little bit more strategic. But we agreed that that could be even better enhanced and have some additional strategic thinking that is looking at the types of projects that we are mutually interested in and coming up with an approach beneficial to both the city and the RTA,” said Niskala.
Niskala spoke about the role of the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and their new bike lane plan and the pedestrian plan. Niskala also reminded everyone that the RTA serves a much larger area than just Corpus Christi. “The RTA serves the majority of Nueces and San Patricio counties, so we’ve got to look at the projects beyond the City of Corpus Christi. It’s something that could be a good collaboration effort between the MPO, the City of Corpus Christi, and the RTA that could lead to a far more efficient and effective use of funds.”
Niskala told the committee that some discretionary funds are available from the FTA (Federal Transit Administration). “The RTA is a designated recipient. Through a good, collaborative effort, we could do some type of grant program that might enhance the sidewalk programs that provide access to and from our transit stops.” He added that federal grants always have some strings attached, so some restrictions will apply, which would limit the use of the grant funds to quarter-mile distances from each bus stop. Niskala, however, said, “It’s a program we could build upon.” That is a sizable area since there is somewhere around 1400 bus stops in the city according to Valerie Gray, Director of Public Works.
“I think the idea is a good one, the RTA working with the MPO and the city to look at how this program might be enhanced.” He explained that the plan would have to presented to the RTA Board of Directors, which he saw as an item for discussion at the February retreat. “So, we might be able to bring back some more detailed information on how this might work.”