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As blades continue to turn, Galveston officials address stuck trucks

It has become a common sight in recent years.

A truck hauls a massive windmill blade west along Harborside Drive from Port of Galveston toward Interstate 45.

The truck is on its way to the mainland – to a wind farm somewhere in West Texas, perhaps – but first must negotiate the tight turn off Harborside and onto the Galveston causeway.

On a good day, the truck hits a curb while making a wide turn, briefly leaving the roadway, and then successfully completes the maneuver and goes on its way.

On a bad day, the truck gets stuck in mud.

After years of grinning and bearing the traffic issues, which can complicate the lives of people trying to leave the island in the morning, the city, the port and Texas Department of Transportation say they’ve come up with a solution to trucks getting stuck and blocking traffic.

In coming weeks, the transportation department will lay down an asphalt cap in the area of the turn as a way to alleviate the traffic problem.

“The solution is going to be to put some hardscaping in where it’s currently just grass,” said Kyle Hockersmith, Galveston public works director. “That will allow the trucks to just drive on it without making a mess.”

The port has received wind-energy related imports since 2008, but it’s only been in recent years that the parts have been carried out by truck, rather than by rail. The reason is fairly simple – today’s turbines are bigger and produce more energy, but the are so big they can’t be carried by rail, officials said.

“We kind of solved it once already,” City Manager Brian Maxwell said about a previous project in which the city rounded off a curb near the highway to allow for wider turns. “Then the damn wind blades got bigger. Then we were back to square one again.”

The project to fix the turn in Galveston will cost about $10,000, the city said. The city and port will split the cost, officials said. The commitment will improve traffic flow, but also signifies the city and port believe the wind power business will be around long enough to justify the investment.

The Port of Galveston has found consistent revenues from wind-energy related cargo.

Earlier this week, the port reported that 21,355 tons of general cargo had moved through Galveston in the first quarter of 2019, largely because of the arrival of wind-energy equipment. It was a huge increase over 928 tons of cargo that moved though the port during the same period in 2018.

Port Director Rodger Rees expected the wind cargo numbers to remain strong, he said.

The port has two agreements with wind-energy companies that are in place through the end of the year, Rees said. There’s talk of extending the contracts into 2020, he said.

“I think it’s going to be good business for us,” he said. “Galveston is a good way to get this kind of product out to the countryside.”