City, TxDOT speak highway golf cart signs

A golf cart driver makes a legal right turn north on Alister Street. If he turned left south, it would be on State Highway 361 and illegal. Critics of the signs banning golf carts from the city on the highway say they are not enough to keep vehicles away. Port Aransas and Texas Department of Transportation officials are discussing plans to install similar signs on the freeway. Staff photo by David Webb

A plan to install warning signs on State Highway 361 that golf carts are not permitted is still underway, but is unlikely to be realized this year, according to a Port Aransas official.

Planning and Development Director Rick Adams said city officials are in discussions with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials about a “comprehensive signage project” that would address several issues on the highway, including the Port Aransas ferry landing. City officials began discussing the project years ago with TxDOT, but the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the turnover of state agency employees halted the discussion, he said. he declares.

“We agreed to get back together,” he said. “We are back in a serious discussion.”

A TxDOT official told the South Pier a year ago that the city would fabricate and install the signs on the freeway south of Avenue G in locations the state agency designates.

Adams said TxDOT officials cleared the locations for placement of the signs on the highway, but Port Aransas officials felt what was being proposed would be ineffective. The placement of the signs would be too far away to notice, he said. “That wouldn’t have helped much,” he said.

Adams noted that the city has erected signs on several side streets where they intersect with the freeway warning cart drivers not to get on the freeway, but the problem persists. The wide sidewalk on the west side of the highway attracts cart drivers, but that’s also illegal.

The cart issue will be discussed by City Council on Wednesday, July 6 at their Strategic Priorities and Goals workshop meeting.

Police Chief Scott Burroughs called the carts “a big part of our law enforcement focus.” Activity reports released by the department reveal trolley accidents and citations issued several times a week. The most common violations are overloading, underage driving and highway driving, Burroughs noted.

A golf cart driven by a 15-year-old boy rolled around a corner in the Old Town on Wednesday June 22, and on June 23 a police car hit a golf cart on the beach when the driver made U-turned directly in front of the officer, police said. Yet another cart carrying several teenagers overturned in the middle of State Highway 361 in the southbound lanes on Wednesday, June 29, though it does not appear to have resulted in anything more than minor injuries.

It is not uncommon for cart drivers to become drunk when they are arrested or have an accident.

Burroughs said he thinks signs on the freeway might help, and he noted that when carts are caught on State Highway 361, drivers’ excuses include that their GPS sent them on the road, they don’t didn’t know it was illegal or that they didn’t do it. I didn’t know it was a highway.

“I don’t think people do it intentionally,” Burroughs said. “I think it’s mostly ignorance on their part.”

A city ordinance requires rental carts to display stickers warning that it’s illegal to use carts on the freeway, and company employees say they also verbally notify customers.

State laws prohibit carts from driving on any road where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph, and the Texas Legislature addressed the issue during the 86th session in 2019 due to the proliferation of off-road vehicles in coastal cities. and the increase in accidents. The law known as House Bill 1548 allows counties and municipalities to ban carts on highways.

Port Aransas began requiring golf cart registration in 2010. In that year, the city registered 761. By the end of 2021, the number has increased to 5,352 and for 2022, 4,512 have already registered. registered.

Growth has also occurred in the number of citations issued to golf cart drivers between summer 2020 and 2021 with an increase from 332 to 405 for the respective years.