By NICOLE JONES
It’s been talked about for years, but as a proposed widening of FM 518 becomes closer to reality, businesses along the prime commercial corridor will be forced to strategize.
Facing a year of construction and detours on the city’s major commercial corridor, business owners on FM 518 gathered to share their thoughts in an first invitation-only, “Property Impact Open House” hosted by the Pearland Chamber on July 31.
Concerns are numerous: How customers will get in an out of their businesses, where they will park and whether their parking lots — or buildings — will become a casualty of progress.
For about six miles from state Hwy. 288 to state Hwy. 35, the widening project would require approximately 25 acres of additional right of way.
With the next meeting scheduled Aug. 20, the FM 518 Ad Hoc Committee Meetings will continue to be held on the third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. at the Commerce Center, 6117 Broadway St. Meetings are 9 to 10 a.m.
Design for the project is set to begin in early 2020. A final environmental analysis and design are all items to be checked off the list before a proposal to widen FM 518 can move forward, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT has maintained that widening the corridor will accommodate future growth.
“The project is needed because current and projected growth in the area has caused traffic demand to increase,” TxDOT states in documents detailing the plan. “The existing roadway is designed with two-way left-turn lanes, and lack of consistent raised medians throughout the project limits, which has resulted in high crash numbers at intersections and other conflict points.”
A hearing held for the general public last March drew a variety of comments, from those who felt construction would only make bad traffic into a nightmare, to others who felt there is no choice to move traffic along the oft congested route other than widening.
Among plans under consideration is a divided roadway with raised medians for increased safety and the conversion of an open ditch drainage system to a curb and gutter one. Outside pedestrian sidewalks also are proposed.