Anyone who has traveled the highways of Southeast Texas has probably heard of, or even experienced, a lane closure on the I-10 Neches River Bridge (Purple Heart Memorial Bridge).
Each lane closure generates lots of questions. Unfortunately, there are also quite a few rumors.
Today's closure, as well as all other weekday closures, are usually the result of an emergency repair. Emergency repairs are just that: emergencies. They can't wait. The problem must be taken care of now. Most of these emergencies are "potholes". However, these aren't ordinary potholes.
The Neches River Bridge is really two bridge built at different times. The first structure was a four-lane bridge built in the 50's. In the mid-70's, the department added extra lanes to the outside of the east and westbound lanes. This was a less expensive way of adding more travel lanes without removing the old bridge.
Potholes appear along the seam, or joint, where the two bridges join. But repairing a pothole on a bridge is not the same as fixing one on a regular road surface. Whenever a pothole appears, crews have to get to it immediately. If not,
the hole quickly gets wider and means much more serious repairs. In some case, repairs must be made to both sides of the pothole. Also, the concrete must set and pass inspection before opening the section to traffic. This involves pouring come of the concrete into a cylinder, letting it "dry" and then testing to see its breaking point. The curing process can take some time. Allowing vehicles on a section of concrete not ready for traffic simply means coming back the next day, breaking out the same section and going through the same process.
A couple of things to remember. The bridge is safe. Period. It passes inspection. TxDOT engineers and inspectors would immediately close the bridge if they felt it would be unsafe. In fact, our bridges are inspected very often. Also, the last place workers want to be is on a bridge in the middle of rush-hour traffic. So, if they are working in rush-hour, you can pretty much assure that it is for emergency reasons.
The good news is that the process of replacing the bridge begins later this fall. More good news is that there will always be two lanes of traffic open in EACH direction during the project. That means two lanes westbound and two lanes eastbound. In fact, the contractor is restricted from any daytime closures during the project.
Nobody likes lane closures; motorists or workers. But our goal is to keep your bridges and roadways safe. It's a responsibility engineers, maintenance crews and the rest of TxDOT take seriously. And in a just a couple of years, Southeast Texans will have a new and updated bridge crossing the Neches.
And potholes on the bridge will be just a memory.