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Kemah readies plans in hopes of avoiding gridlock - The Galveston County Daily News : Local News

November 27, 2014

Kemah readies plans in hopes of avoiding gridlock

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Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014 12:45 am | Updated: 4:31 pm, Sun Mar 23, 2014.

KEMAH — Just as spring break means warmer days, families flocking to beaches and children riding amusement rides, it can also mean heavy traffic for one popular Galveston County destination. 

Traffic in and out of Kemah was steady most of the week, but not jammed as has been the case in years past during spring break. That’s expected to change this weekend.

A combination of less than ideal weather and a split of spring break schedules accounted for busy — but not unmanageable — traffic this past week. But with most of the state’s universities and Houston school district’s spring breaks starting this weekend, officials expect busy roadways.

Kemah City Administrator Rick Beverlin said that the city shuttle service managed most of the week with just one bus running. That is expected to ramp up as the weather improves.

On Friday afternoon, Kemah Mayor Bob Cummins said there was already a long line of cars on state Highway 146, the city’s main thoroughfare. 

This is the second year the city, along with the Gulf Coast Center, is providing free shuttle transportation around town, Cummins said. 

“The shuttles have been working extremely well,” Cummins said.

There are 13 shuttle stops throughout the city. On Thursday, the shuttle carried more than 400 passengers, Beverlin said.

“With Houston ISD starting its spring break and the improved weather, we expect it to really pick up,” Beverlin said. Four years ago, more than 6,000 people rode the shuttles during the service’s first year of operation.

Police Chief Greg Rikard said traffic had been steady, but manageable. That’s a far cry from a few years ago when traffic congestion on the second weekend of spring break nearly overwhelmed the city.

In 2012, city officials estimated that more than 8,000 vehicles tried to pack into the area that has only 3,000 parking spots in the Lighthouse District and Kemah Boardwalk areas.

The city is also looking at plans to build a $12.5 million, 500-spot multilevel transportation center. It would serve as a tourist parking center during the weekends and a park-and-ride during the week.

That prompted a traffic control plan that closes off some roads and keeps traffic flowing. It also led to a city-sponsored shuttle service that drops visitors off at the Lighthouse District and Kemah Boardwalk.

The service will ramp up as ridership increases, Beverlin said. The city has secured some temporary, emergency parking space on the west side of state Highway 146, Cummins said.

“You just try to do little things, and if you get enough little things eventually you’ve helped it some,” he said. 

Spring break brings traffic and crowds — and it is also the start of the tourist season. That means shoppers in local stores and customers in restaurants.

“It kicks off our season,” Cummins said.