Several new signs were recently installed on city streets in Port Aransas leading to State Highway 361, warning motorists that it is illegal to drive golf carts on the highway.
Over the past two weeks, signs have been erected on Avenue G, Avenue I and Avenue J, near their intersection with the freeway.
Others were installed on Howard Boulevard (next to the Dollar General Store), Port A RV and Beach Access Road 1. A sign that was already on Beach Access Road 1A was moved to another location in the road for better visibility.
The new signs complemented several existing signs that had been in place for some time.
Port Aransas City Manager Dave Parsons said plans are also underway to post sidewalk signs along the highway warning people that driving carts on sidewalks is illegal. It was unclear exactly when the stenciled messages will be applied. Some materials must be ordered.
Since the highway falls under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the South Pier asked TxDOT spokesperson Rickey Dailey if the agency had any comments about the golf cart signs. .
He replied, “The Texas Department of Transportation has worked and is working cooperatively with the City of Port Aransas on posting signs warning drivers that golf carts are prohibited on SH 361 south of Avenue G. The city has agreed to fabricate and install the signs and sign locations are being finalized.
Driving golf carts on the freeway south of Avenue G is not only a violation of a city ordinance, it is also illegal to drive them on sidewalks along the edge of the freeway.
Despite the ordinance, it is not uncommon to see people driving carts on the highway and on the sidewalk.
Port Aransas police are implementing additional patrols this summer to limit traffic violations such as golf cart violations on the highway.
A city ordinance requires rental carts to display decals warning that it is illegal to drive carts on the highway. And, in interviews, rental company employees said they explain cart laws to their customers.
Some said more signs were needed to attract more attention from cart drivers.
But Port Aransas Councilman Bruce Clark questioned the signs’ effectiveness.
“Panels don’t make a difference,” he said at a June 15 council shop meeting.
He said he had recently seen a golf cart go down 361.
“There was a sign (listing cart rules) clearly on the steering wheel,” Clark said. “He said, ‘Don’t drive on 361.’ They don’t care.
Council member Joan Holt said some people might care.
Councilman David Sieloff said that for some people the problem may not be that they don’t care so long as they just don’t pay attention.
As development continues along the highway, golf carts may become even more likely to travel on the 361.
Clark pointed out that the reason carts are dangerous on the highway is that they tend to move slowly, while larger vehicles move relatively quickly. He suggested the possibility of lowering the speed limit on the freeway to 35 mph between Avenue G and Beach Access Road 1A to make it safe (and, presumably, legal) for carts to get there.
But it would be up to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to change the speed limit.
Rick Adams, the city’s director of planning and development, said it’s historically been difficult to persuade Tx-DOT to change speed limits.
Clark suggested that Tx-DOT might listen if the board sent the agency a message that it wanted the speed limit lowered.
“I think if the city as a whole said, ‘Listen, we want to lower the speed limit on access road 1A for safety and for business development or whatever, and leave the golf carts there , now all the (golf cart) complaints are gone,” Clark said.
City manager Dave Parsons warned Clark.
“You’ll get a whole new type of complaint, Bruce, and it’ll be a thousand times what you’re seeing now,” Parsons said. “And that’s (of) all the people who hate golf carts (saying) all of a sudden, you’re changing the world to welcome golf carts?”