The much-anticipated Phase II of the San Jacinto Boulevard project is now open.
City dignitaries, along with officials from Goose Creek CISD and racers from the Houston Raceway Park, were on hand to celebrate the road’s grand opening.
The boulevard now provides Baytonians with a continuous thoroughfare from Baker Road all the way to Interstate-10. The first phase opened in October 2018 from I-10 to Santavy Street. The second phase goes from Santavy down to Bush Road, where it intersects with West Cedar Bayou Lynchburg Road. In addition, the portion of Hunt Road that goes to John Martin Road is also now open. Officials deemed the entire roadway system the San Jacinto Corridor.
An early rain caused concerns the celebration would be delayed but it stopped just in time for the festivities.
“I knew it would be a sunny day even if it rained,” City Manager Rick Davis said. “This is a project we have been working on for a long time. Years before I came to the city, this project was envisioned with former engineers talking about the widening and development of John Martin Road to carry more traffic as an alternative.”
Davis said former Assistant City Manager Ron Bottoms, was largely responsible for making the boulevard a reality.
“He saw this thing through like a bucking bronco, all the way through (the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone), the financing of it, and managed this project up until he left,” Davis said. “It wouldn’t be here without Ron.”
David also thanked the Angel Brothers, who were the contractors on the project, and property owners George Gillman and Leo Womack of Gulf Equities, for their cooperation in making the surrounding land available for the project.
“I also thank the team of city employees, the city engineers, and particularly the TIRZ board and city council,” Davis said. “Thank you for sharing the vision of this day.”
Council had approved Certificates of Obligation with TIRZ in April 2016 to fund the construction of the boulevard for $18.1 million. Angel Brothers Enterprises received a $15.5 million contract from the city for Phase I of the project. In 2018, the Angel Brothers received another contract for $7.9 million to construct the project’s second phase. To engineer the project, Baytown hired Kimley-Horn & Associates in 2014.
Davis said the new road is real traffic relief.
“It will pick up the entire west side of our community,” he said. “I have every confidence this will be a well-used road forever. It makes a statement in our community that we turned the corner. As Mayor Brandon Capetillo puts it, it is Baytown 2.0.”
Councilman Charles Johnson recognized previous Baytown mayors and councils for their vision in building the road.
“It started with them,” Johnson said. “When we opened the first phase of San Jacinto, I mentioned the word ‘wow,’ because I was astonished at how beautiful this area looked. I was also amazed at some of the things we see going on here in this area that we’d like to see going on in Baytown. There are no power lines, no telephone poles, and everything is underground. We have wider sidewalks and benches to encourage people to come along and walk or use bicycles. Most importantly, this directly affects something the citizens who said they wanted less traffic around town, especially on Garth Road.”
Johnson encouraged Baytown citizens to drive down the road, not just to see the Sam Houston statue that sits at the roundabout along the boulevard, but also to use it as a way of getting around town easier.
“If you want to get to the Kroger Marketplace or Marshalls or to Cedar Bayou Lynchburg or Bush Road, come down San Jacinto Boulevard,” Johnson said. “I can guarantee you, it will not take you 20 minutes to get down it like it does being on Garth Road at times.”
Baytown Mayor Brandon Capetillo talked about the early days of the project.
“It was about eight-plus years ago when we first entertained the idea about the right-of-way feasibility for this tract,” Capetillo said. “There was going to be a county-widening project along John Martin, but it did not come to fruition. So, we had to do something. This is not just an ordinary boulevard. This is not just what we’ve done in the past. It is a different vision. It is the quality of life all of our citizens share.”
Capetillo said the new road has the capability of bringing in new retail as well as housing.
“But, it is bigger than that,” Capetillo said. “We are also offering our citizens the best we can. When we asked our community what the No. 1 issue we could address through our community-based strategic initiatives study and survey, they said do something about Garth Road. This here is not the entire answer, but it is an opportunity.”
Capetillo said the city is not done with Garth Road.
“We will continue to address that,” Capetillo said. “I look forward to the future here, seeing the businesses that will develop and the people that will live here. We want to bring in top-class development. The best is yet to come.”
Instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting, Houston Raceway Park provided three fast cars – Hellcat Challenger, a Hellcat Charger, and a Scat Pack Charger – to be the first to drive down the road in a much-slower version of a real race, complete with a green and checkered flag.
Austin Hayward, the Houston Raceway Park’s composition director, and Brian Mason, another driver, took off down the new road as soon as Mayor Capetillo waved the green flag and stopped when he waved the checkered one.
“This was a blast,” Mason said. “It is cool to be a part of local history. This is something that will go into pictures showing the city moving forward. It was exciting to be a part of this.”
Over 3,000 cards are sent to the troops overseas thanks to the efforts of the City Baytown employees. They take time to craft a thoughtful message, something the employees consider very important. The employees have also taken cards to groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, high school groups, and groups that serve in the municipal court.