It’s a tradition for many people to let the hard, cool breeze hit their hands as they drive across the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. The release of the total numbers of cars speeding along the causeway in 2015 by the Texas Department of Transportation is indication the passengers who enjoy waiving their hand out the window while crossing is in the millions. The report also shows July is undoubtedly the most important month of the year as more people come to the Island each year. More cars crossing the causeway mean more visitors on the Island likely spending more money. And for the last four years, more than one million cars have crossed the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway to reach the Island just during the month of July.
“July is the biggest contributor to our economy in sales tax and Hotel Occupancy Tax,” said Darla Jones, interim city manager. With more than a million cars crossing the bridge in July only, families and friends are on the beach enjoying its many attractions. “The Island offers an array of outdoor and water-related activities, a remarkable birding center, numerous nature preserves, and remarkable birding center,” Jones said.
The numbers prove South Padre Island continues to be a popular tourist vacation destination all year round. Over the last four years more than seven million vehicles have consistently crossed the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway to visit the Island. Some of the lowest months reported half a million or less vehicle crossings dating as far back as January and September of 2007 with 586,909 and 404,161, respectively. The TxDOT reports show July as the most active month of the year.
It has grown from less than a million total crossings in 2007 and has plateaued at just more than one million since 2012. In 2008, the numbers in July dropped significantly due to Hurricane Dolly turning the Island and region into a disaster area. The Texas Department of Transportation did not have causeway counts for 2016 available by press time.
However, the numbers provided appear to be mostly accurate. “TxDOT has automated counters at the base of the causeway to count vehicle crossings,” Jones said. “Because this can be used for economic and demographic purposes, we request updated counts from TxDOT periodically.” Jones said in some months, the cars were not counted because of equipment problems with the counters. “Even automated counters mess up occasionally,” Jones said. “I think the data is important because it shows how much busier July is than any other month, even March through Spring Break.”
According to the Island’s Comprehensive Resort Market Analysis written in 2014, Island visitors have a significant impact on the local economy. The report said visitors stimulate the demand for employment, housing and other hospitality and tourism related activities.
According to the report South Padre Island’s visitors’ data show the Island draws visitors from local, regional, national and international markets. And in the month of July 2013, the number of December crossings was only 43 percent of July’s crossings. “The month of July is the bread and butter of the city,” Jones said.
Number of cars crossing the Causeway in the month of July.
2012 – 1,021,341
2013 – 1,001,516
2014 – 1,011,822
2015 – 1,076,391
By RAUL GARCIA Staff writer