The following was originally published in DTown Delivers, a bi-monthly publication produced by the Corpus Christi (Texas) Downtown Management District and published by the Caller Times.
Pardon Our Dust: Chaparral Street Project Update
By Etta Luiz
There’s an old saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” That certainly rings true for what’s happening on Chaparral Street these days. I spend a lot of time on the street, ready to lend an ear to anyone who thinks I need to listen, so I definitely hear some trash talk, but I also get positive feedback that I treasure.
For some people, the biggest surprise in the Chaparral Street Project is the simple fact that it’s actually happening. After fighting over it and getting snagged politically for years, progress is finally being made. There were those who said it would NEVER happen. Then one day about two months ago, the equipment arrived. That got some attention!
It started shortly after the first of the year. The intersection of Chaparral and Schatzell Streets was the first to close. Within a few weeks, a set of overgrown Tonka trucks had dug, scraped, lifted, laid, and leveled a new surface over new water lines, wastewater lines, and manholes. The street closures caused a bit of unforeseen havoc during the Friday night ArtWalk (THE single most heavily-trafficked night in any given month), but that was soon remedied and everyone survived and got home safely.
The next day, Saturday, March 2, after literally working literally around-the-clock to complete the phase, Raytec called it a wrap and opened the Chaparral/Schatzell intersection to traffic. The finishing pavers were withheld in order to expedite the return to (sorta) normal traffic, but they’ll be installed later in the project to coincide with placing the pavers in the other two intersections.
On Sunday, March 3, barricades went up along the 2-block section of Chaparral between William and Schatzell Streets. The following day, the Tonka trucks were back, with a fleet of Mack trucks, to begin scraping up the pot-holed asphalt. We learned, interestingly, that all those truckloads of old asphalt will be re-purposed as fill in other projects. Like!
To date, it’s been a wild two weeks of rumbling, honking, beeping, drilling, jack-hammering, and detours. Yes, I, too, have been forced to take a detour and to stop at flashing red lights every day. But… I’ll never have to dodge the big pothole in front of Porky’s – never, ever, EVER again! It’s truly a small price to pay.
Construction crews removed the asphalt layer, followed by the layer of concrete beneath it – which was also sent off to be re-purposed. Under that layer, they uncovered hundreds of old railroad ties that had once formed the foundation for the horse-drawn trolley system that ran down the center of Chaparral Street. It would be interesting to know how long ago that trolley stopped running. Most of the ties were remarkably well preserved, and they, too, will be re-purposed.
The old sewer and water pipes (age unknown) were not so well preserved. They were found to be badly corroded, leaving only a small diameter for flow. Surely it was only a matter of time before someone along that street would have had a very unpleasant experience. But now new PVC pipes have been installed and Downtown will work like new again.
For now, Chaparral Street is closed from Schatzell to (and including) William. William and Lawrence Streets, between Mesquite and Water Streets, are temporarily two-way, so you can still get close to your destination. Sure, it can be a little confusing if it’s your first visit to the construction zone, but it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Worst case… go around the block and follow the detour signs.
The project is scheduled for completion sometime around September or October, weather permitting. Reytec Construction has gone above and beyond to meet schedules and to accommodate businesses during the process, including working around-the-clock at times. I watched today as they swept dirt and debris from the crosswalks, which tells me they’re doing everything possible to keep the streets pedestrian friendly and safe during this process. Businesses, restaurants, and the clubs are still open and welcome your visit.
Some said it would never happen. Well, guess what! It’s happening and it’s going to be beautiful. So whenever someone starts talking trash about this fabulous downtown improvement, I just tell them, “You may think it’s a mess, but we think it’s beautiful because it’s the solution to a problem that’s older than most of us. It’s been broken for many, many years, and this is how we fix it.”