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Projects Preparing for Suburban Growth

News Source: Texas Construction

Sep. 1, 2007

Chambers County Anticipates Houston Sprawl

The second section of the Houston's planned third beltway, the Grand Parkway or SH 99, will be opening to traffic in December. The 10-mi stretch of road, known as segment IH-2, runs from IH-10 to just west of FM 1405 in Chambers County. It is one of 11 segments of a proposed 180-mi Parkway. "It's really all tied into the growth of Harris County and Houston and also the growth of Chambers County," says Marc Shepherd, public information officer for TxDOT's Beaumont District. "Two groups will benefit from this: the people who live, work and commute in Chambers County and those in Harris County, who will have an alternate route from Baytown to IH-10."

J.D. Abrams LP of Austin is the contractor on the $60 million job, which began in December 2003. "It is new construction, pretty standard for this area: lime-treated subgrade with cement treated base course, 1 in. of bond breaker and then 12-in concrete pavement," says Charles Webb, Abrams' project engineer.

One section, from Fisher Road north to IH-10, will be tolled, and TxDOT is building the road for possible expansion. "In some places we're basically building a frontage road that will serve as the travel lane for 10 or 15 years," says David Maxedon, engineering specialist at the TxDOT's Liberty area office, which is overseeing construction. Then, if necessary, 10 or 15 years from now TxDOT can build the main lanes on the land that it owns inside of these frontage roads. The state has already built main lanes and frontage roads at the FM 565 overpass.

Scheduled completion date for the project was July 2006, but utility and right-of-way acquisition issues delayed work.

The first section of the Grand Parkway, which runs 19 mi from U.S. 59 near Sugar Land to IH-10 in Katy, opened to traffic in 1994. Aside from Section IH-2, now being built, no other portions are yet scheduled for construction. But the Grand Parkway Association, a nonprofit corporation authorized by TxDOT to facilitate the road's construction, is continuing its efforts. "All other segments except segment A are currently under study and we will continue to do those studies to move things forward," says David Fornet, executive director of the Grand Parkway Association. Once they get environmental approvals and rights-of-way identified, TxDOT can go out and start protecting these corridors so that they don't have development taking place that will block or increase the cost of the project in the future"

Speeding east-west travel Improvements to three sections of IH-10 in Chambers County should also provide an easier drive for commuters and other motorists.

The first project widened the interstate from four to six lanes in a 6-mi stretch from Cedar Bayou east to FM 565. The job began in December 2003 and included construction of an overpass over the Grand Parkway. "The parkway is going to end right there and will tie into IH-10 at that spot," Maxedon says.

Contractor for the $35 million project was McCarthy Construction Co., which has its Texas division offices in Dallas.

The project addressed drainage issues on IH-10. "Due to the flooding problems they've had here in Chambers County over the years, they designed a project to put 17 spans over the top of a drainage area that was created by Hackberry Creek," says Jerry Mayer, McCarthy Building Co.'s project director. "We also added three major ponds underneath the bridges to handle the water."

Wet weather and drainage problems combined with a major change order- the addition of 4 ft. to IH-410 to prepare for a possible tollway- delayed the project a year, but was completed in August.

Work is about 23% complete on the second IH-10 project, the construction of twin spans over the Trinity River. "They will be segmented cantilever structures because that enables us to span greater distances and we're trying to minimize the number of piers in the water," says Duane Browning, area engineer for TxDOT's Beaumont District, which is over-seeing the work.

To avoid impacting traffic on the existing bridge, which is two lanes in each direction, TxDOT is building a bridge that will ultimately become the westbound structure. "After that is completed, it will handle all of the traffic while we tear down the existing bridge and build another structure in its place," Browning adds. Eventually, traffic will be split between the two new three-lane bridges.

Wetland and environmental issues on the project are significant, especially the presence of a bird rookery that impacts both the type of construction activities permitted and when they can take place, Browning says.

"Construction activities in the identified buffer zone will only be allowed to begin between Sept. 1 and Feb. 15, when presumably no birds are there, or if they are, they're not laying eggs," he adds.

This $62.6 million project began in November and should take approximately 4.5 years to complete. Williams Brothers Construction Co. of Houston is the contractor.

The final segment of IH-10 under construction runs 6.5 mi. from the Trinity River Bridge east to SH 61. Houston based W.W. Weber is the general contractor on the $65 million project.

Crews are widening the highway from four to six lanes by filling in the existing median with base and then placing another layer of cement on top of all lanes. The project will involve the reconstruction of Turtle Bayou Bridge. Scheduled completion is April 2010.

The completion of the IH-10 projects will give Chambers County 36 mi. of easy-to-travel interstate, Maxedon says. "Houston is developing and moving our way, and we're ready for it."