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$1B Houston Bridge Replacement Commences

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

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The Harris County Toll Road Authority recently announced that work to replace the Houston Ship Channel Bridge will soon commence, marking the largest infrastructure project the agency has ever undertaken.

According to Houston Public Media, the bridge is being replaced to handle additional traffic—55,000 vehicles cross the span a day, and that number is expected to climb to 160,000 vehicles a day by 2035.

Bridge Replacement

Slated for completion in 2024, the structure is composed of twin span cable-stayed concrete box-girder bridges with four lanes of traffic on each and 10-foot shoulders. (In order to minimize cracking, the box girders are post-tensioned in two directions.) The current bridge has only two lanes of traffic going in each direction, with no shoulder, which means nothing good for drivers who break down on the bridge.

Since much of the area beneath the bridge will be inaccessible to the public, HCTRA strove to factor in aesthetic design efforts that would provide drivers with a unique visual experience as they crossed the span, namely a pylon shape that has inclined legs seen more often on conventional A-frame or diamond-shaped cable-stayed bridge towers, with the legs forming an X-shaped configuration above deck level.

As it stands, there are no closures planned during construction—the project will be completed in three phases so that all four lanes of traffic are maintained. The first phase, set for completion in 2021, will see the construction of a southbound bridge. From there, traffic will be directed onto the new bridge while the old span is being demolished and a second span is built in its place to carry northbound traffic.

In planning the project, HCTRA had to account for the Port of Houston’s plan to widen and deepen the navigational channel below. The main span of the new structure will be 1,320 feet long; the current bridge's main span stretches 750 feet and was the longest span of its kind of the U.S. when it was built in 1982.

“The bridge is really designed for the motorist,” said William Torres, the Deputy Program Manager at HNTB, the firm overseeing the project. “Driving along the roadway you will see a beautiful cable-stayed bridge with towers over 500 feet tall, providing aesthetic lighting at night for a completely immersive experience.”

According to Roads & Bridges, this type of bridge was optimal for the area’s poor soil conditions and functionally served the agency’s desire for a low-maintenance structure.

The first contract, which included the cable-stayed main span bridge, is the largest single contract ever advertised by Harris County.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Infrastructure; Project Management

Comment from Tony Rangus, (6/6/2018, 9:46 AM)

"Since much of the area beneath the bridge will be inaccessible to the public, HCTRA strove to factor in aesthetic design efforts that would provide drivers with a unique visual experience as they crossed the span, namely a pylon shape that has inclined legs seen more often on conventional A-frame or diamond-shaped cable-stayed bridge towers, with the legs forming an X-shaped configuration above deck level". Why is "aesthetic design" and a "unique visual experience" so important? To give an architect a rush of pride. Why isn't overall cost, functionality, durability and construction time the main priorities? One billion dollars!! There has to be a cheaper alternative.


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