Repairs to the San Jacinto River bridge will begin within days. Southbound lanes will shift to some northbound lanes and the work is expected to take four to six months.
TxDOT is ready to begin reconstruction work on the southbound San Jacinto bridge, targeting Friday evening, March 16, as the start of work on the bridge. At that time, the bridge will be set up for closure of the southbound 59/69 Eastex freeway main lanes across the bridge.
Danny Perez, public information officer for TxDOT, said, “Because of damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, several spans, beam and decks of the southbound bridge will be taken down piece by piece and then rebuilt.”
Coming onto the bridge from the north, the southbound traffic will be routed to what is currently only northbound lanes. The rerouting will result in three lanes of northbound and three lanes of southbound traffic on the what is now northbound only side. To get all six lanes, the shoulders will be utilized to add two lanes during this construction period.
Concrete beams to separate the two directions of traffic will be placed on the northbound side. In addition, on that first weekend of work, the surfaces wills be re-striped and the roadways from and to the southbound sides will be constructed.
The frontage roads on each side of the bridge will remain intact, retaining that traffic flow capacity on both sides of the bridge. Perez said, “We have communicated with the business owners who are accessed from the frontage roads, and one of our goals is to continue the access available to traffic from the frontage roads during all of the construction work.”
Perez said this plan will allow the city to work while the construction is underway. However, the project will entail some total closures of the bridge, not frontage roads, for weekends to reconfigure the northbound lanes. Access will continue via the frontage roads. Work will be done during the night.
Perez said, “Our point is to minimize the impact on the traveling public. Closure will be required to set the concrete barriers.”
To accommodate the closure of the bridge, crews will reroute the southbound mainlanes onto the northbound mainlanes of I-69 Eastex Freeway prior to the bridge. This will allow motorists to bypass the southbound bridge closure. Southbound motorists will then return to the southbound mainlanes near the Townsen overpass.
Three northbound mainlanes and three southbound mainlanes will share the northbound bridge across the river while the southbound and the northbound frontage roads will remain as three lanes each across the river. The southbound entrance ramp from Kingwood Drive and northbound entrance ramp from FM 1960/Townsen will be closed.
The HOV entrance and exit to Kingwood Drive will also be closed and will be rerouted to the Townsen Park and Ride entrance and exit during this time.
To prepare the roadway for the reconfigured lanes, crews will need to close multiple mainlanes and ramps over the course of the next two weeks to facilitate the bridge construction to begin March 23. Below is a list of upcoming closures:
• I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Sorters McClellan Road, two right lanes closed continuously beginning Saturday, March 10 at 3 a.m. through Monday, March 12 at 5 a.m.
• I-69 Eastex northbound entrance ramp from FM 1960/Townsen total closure beginning Saturday, March 10 at 3 a.m. through Sunday, March 11 at 7 a.m. Additionally, this ramp will be closed through the duration of the project, effective 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 13. Detour northbound on the frontage road to the entrance ramp from Sorters McClellan Road.
• I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Sorters McClellan Road, two right lanes closed nightly from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 13 through Thursday, March 15.
• I-69 Eastex northbound exit ramp to Kingwood Drive total closure nightly from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday, March 14 and Thursday, March 15. Additionally, this ramp will be closed continuously Friday, March 16 at 9 p.m. through Monday, March 19 at 5 a.m. Detour via the northbound mainlanes to the exit ramp to Northpark Drive; U-Turn at Northpark Drive and then follow the southbound frontage road to either Kingwood Drive or Sorters McClellan Road.
• I-69 Eastex northbound mainlanes between FM 1960 to Sorters McClellan Road, four alternate lanes closed continuously beginning Friday, March 16 at 9 p.m. through Monday, March 19 at 5 a.m. At least one mainlane will remain open.
• I-69 Eastex northbound exit ramp to Loop 494/ McClellan/ Hamblen total closure continuously Friday, March 16 at 9 p.m. through Monday, March 19 at 5 a.m. Detour via the northbound mainlanes to the exit ramp to Northpark Drive and then follow the frontage road to the U-Turn at Northpark Drive to the southbound frontage road to either Kingwood Drive or Sorters McClellan Road.
During Hurricane Harvey, the main channel of the San Jacinto River shifted, impacting the I-69 southbound mainlanes bridge over the river. As a result, the depth and alignment of the river changed, affecting the foundation of the bridge. Although capable of carrying typical traffic, the southbound bridge does not have the capability of carrying extremely heavy loads, which have been diverted to the frontage road. To restore the load carrying capacity of the southbound bridge, a project to replace the affected portion of the bridge has been awarded to Webber, LLC Construction.
The work begins on the north end of the bridge at McClellan Road and will end at Townsen on the south end. This is an emergency project caused by flood damage, so the planning for the work has been done in a shortened time-frame.
The HOA lane will still exist but the entrance to the HOA lane will change within the bridge.
Perez said, “The big thing TxDOT wants to get out is for the public to plan accordingly, knowing the work is being done. The big thing for folks is to know before you go. What may have taken you 30 minutes before might be 45 minutes, so plan accordingly. Once people get used to the changes, the drivers will adjust to the new situation.”
All the work will be completed in four to six months, with November being the end date. Work will continue 24 hours per day. “The goal is getting the project completed as soon as possible,” said Perez.
Closures may be required at the back end of the project as all of the lanes are put back together as they were.