The annual Sandfest sand sculpture building competition has kicked off for yet another year on the beach of Port Aransas.
Upwards of 100,000 people are expected to converge on the beach and thousands of vehicles will be traveling the area. Port Aransas residents and visitors should expect heavy congestion and major traffic delays beginning Friday and lasting through around 8:00PM Sunday evening.
Scott Burroughs, Port Aransas Chief of Police, put out some helpful information about parking and traffic in an around Sandfest 2017.
FROM SCOTT BURROUGHS - PORT ARANSAS POLICE CHIEF: There is major construction on Highway 361 (The Island Road) from Mustang Island State Park to Access Road 1A in Port Aransas. The entire construction area has been designated as a no passing zone with a 55 MPH speed limit. Motorists are cautioned to be aware of workers, heavy equipment entering and leaving the highway, barrels, cones, and other hazards in the area.
Downtown Port Aransas traffic typically starts to build before noon on Saturday. The historic choke points include the intersection of Avenue G and Alister, 11th Street at Avenue G; Avenue G at the beach, and Access Rd 1A at the beach. Sandfest visitors can avoid these areas by entering the beach from Cotter Avenue (stay straight when exiting the ferry), Beach Street (accessible from Alister), or Lantana Drive (accessible from Station Street).
As in years past, all beach traffic will be routed one-way south between Avenue G and Access Road 1A from approximately 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM Saturday and Sunday. Sand Castle Drive will be closed to through traffic.
Public beach parking has been expanded. There will be large parking areas behind the bollards near Access Road 1A (near pole 19) and behind the bollards near Avenue G (Pole 0). A special RV parking area is located behind the bollards near Sand Castle Drive (Pole 6).
A remote parking lot will be set up in the field at the end of Gracie’s Way on Saturday and Sunday. Gracie’s Way is accessible from Beach Access Road 1A, just south of 11th street. Shuttles will provide transportation from the parking lot to the beach.
For people arriving from Corpus Christi, the main entrance to Sandfest is accessible only from Avenue G, Lantana Drive, Beach Street, and Cotter Avenue. Vehicles, including golf carts will not be able to drive to the main Sandfest entrance from Access Road 1 or 1A. However, vehicles may enter the event parking lot at the south end of the bollards near Pole 19 from Access Road 1 or 1A.
Beach parking permits are required to park on the beach, including in the event parking areas. Beach visitors will save a lot of time by purchasing permits BEFORE entering the beach. Beach Parking permits can be purchased at the IGA, the Chamber of Commerce, CVS, or any of the Port Aransas Stripes Stores.
Visitors with smart devices should consider preloading a couple of links. Ferry wait times are available at http://www.cityofportaransas.org/txdot/status.pdf. If the posted wait time is 45 minutes or longer, it may be faster to drive across Corpus Christi and down SPID to Highway 361 than it is to wait in the ferry line. The South Jetty newspaper http://www.portasouthjetty.com has an entire section dedicated to Sandfest. The city’s website http://www.cityofportaransas.org has information about Port Aransas including links for beach, and TxDot cameras, the chamber of commerce, local rules and ordinances, and ferry wait times. Sandfest has their own website at TexasSandfest.org
Visitors can avoid sitting in and contributing to the traffic jam by taking the shuttle from Robert’s Point Park, riding a bicycle, or just walking. At the peak of traffic, walking is much faster than driving!
Golf carts are motor vehicles and all motorists are reminded that the beach is a public street. All traffic laws, including DWI, laws, apply while operating motor vehicles on the beach. Cell phones may not be used, except in hands free mode, while operating a motor vehicle on the beach or any other city street.
City ordinances prohibit glass bottles on the beach and all dogs must be on a leash. For a complete list of city ordinances and golf cart rules please visit the city of Port Aransas website at http://www.cityofportaransas.org
In case of an emergency, dial 911 immediately.