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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Repairing the Neches River Bridge

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.

Marc S.


11 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. "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"

    Actually "good news" would go something like this: SH105 and US90 will be extended into Orange County before there are any more planned lane closures on IH10. That would be good news.

    The closure yesterday created a huge traffic jam on Veterans Memorial Bridge. There needs to be another way to Cross the Neches River. This should be top priority.

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  3. There is no doubt that another crossing at the Neches River would greatly help transportation. However,having one built before the work on the Neches River bridge project gets underway simply won't happen. Obviously, one simply doesn't go to the local hardware store and buy a bridge.

    There are several issues that have to be dealt with.

    First, deciding where it would be built. Any bridge would have to placed in a location based on traffic flow, etc. Simply picking on spot on a map and building a bridge doesn't work. The most probable location would be south of the current bridge.

    Second, any bridge crossing the Neches River south of I-10 would have to be tall enough to allow for shipping.

    Third, there would have to be roads constructed on either side to get to the bridge. This is especially an issue on the Orange County side.

    These are not insurmountable. They are just real issues that have to be dealt with.

    As for the upcoming construction on the Neches River Bridge, it is good news that the highway will be 2 lanes in each direction. Many had believed that the construction would reduced it permanently to one lane in each direction.

    Hope this helps.

    Marc S.

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  4. I understand that it won't happen before the Purple Heart Bridge repairs begin. I don't understand why it didn't happen decades ago. As far as traffic flow goes, if you build it they will come. The ideal spot would be between Port Neches and Vidor but another bridge anywhere would relieve some of the congestion. I'm sure that residents of the North side of Vidor, Mauriceville and the surrounding areas would be happy to take SH105 and tee into FM105 just to avoid travelling on IH10 and those going North to Silsbee could bypass Lumberton.

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  5. It definitely would have been nice to have it in place years ago. Personally, I like your idea of placing it between Port Neches and Vidor. It seemingly would be an ideal place and cater to Mid-County traffic.

    Marc S

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  6. It looks to me like TxDOT only caters to trucking companies travelling between industrial areas. If there was any concern for motorists there would have been a bridge there already. I don't expect that this weeks fatalities (It's only Monday) will change that policy though.

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  7. Sorry, but I really don't understand your point. We cater to all motorists on the highway. Trucks make up about 25% of the traffic. We design highways and highway projects based on traffic counts. Building another bridge is not based on truck traffic.

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  8. The point is that if there were large chemical plants in South Vidor then FM365 would have been extended across the river long ago but people who must commute between these locations are just out of luck.

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  9. The chemical plants were in PA and Orange long before the major roadways were constructed. So, roadways were constructed based on where the traffic flow is. Vidor and other areas grew up after the plants and roads were constructed. If plants are built south of Vidor, any proposed highway project would be based on traffic volume and not how many trucks travel the area.

    Again, it's based on traffic volume and not truck traffic.

    Marc S

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  10. The point is that it serves the needs of industry with no regard for the needs of everyday commuters. We need a way to bypass IH10 and the weekly fatalities that occur there without clogging up 73 with traffic jams that cross the county line.

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