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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX-This morning, Texas Economic Development officials will meet with elected officials in Port Isabel to discuss state assistance and recovery from Saturday’s collapse of a section of the 2.37-mile Queen Isabella Causeway, which has temporarily halted tourism and construction in the seaside vacation destination in South Texas.

Linda Whitby, executive vice president of the South Padre Economic Development Corp., tells GlobeSt.com the results of the weekend catastrophe could be disastrous. The EDC estimates each tourist spends an average of $384.17 per day in South Padre. About $11 million per week comes in at this time of year from the estimated 4,000 tourists, according to Whitby. Texas’ winter season, which runs from November to February, brings in just under one billion dollars. The construction time to fix the causeway is currently estimated at 60 days.

Whitby says South Padre Island’s economic impact is such that it paid Cameron County and the state nearly $30 million in 2000 taxes. Taxing bodies could incur up to a $10-million loss due to an interruption of 60 to 90 days.

Whitby emphasizes the island is still open for business and a plethora of alternative transportation sources will be made available. The state has said in published reports that ferries will be available, but it remains undetermined if island visitors will be able to take their cars on the ferries.

John Keeling of San Francisco-based PKF Consulting’s Houston office says South Padre Island has been riding high this year with 70% hotel occupancy rates in July and average room rates of $116.00. The rest of the state’s hotel industry is down three points this year, but the island is doing better than ever. Keeling believes Island’s businesses will weather the potentially dry period because of the cushion from this summer’s success. And, he says, the coming months are traditionally the area’s slowest. Besides, says Keeling, many businesses have insurance to cover the losses from this type of hardship.

Nonetheless, the causeway’s collapse has halted work on many island projects, including the Dolphin, a 29-unit townhouse condo project that was to deliver in two weeks. Glen McGehee of Wells Realtors Inc. is managing the project for Monterrey-based developer Arturo Quintero. McGehee says construction is on hold while solutions are weighed.

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