Work Starts On Billion-Dollar Project To Replace Houston Ship Channel Toll Bridge

The current bridge is being replaced with wider twin spans. The project is expected to take over six years to complete.


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It's costing $962 million dollars to replace the Ship Channel Bridge and it's the biggest infrastructure project Harris County has ever undertaken.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority says it's replacing the bridge so it can handle growing traffic. The bridge currently carries about 55,000 vehicles a day. That's expected to grow to about 160,000 vehicles a day by 2035.

The replacement project includes four lanes in each direction and it'll look a lot like the Fred Hartman Bridge near Baytown.

William Torres is Deputy Program Manager at HNTB, the firm that's overseeing the project.

"The bridge is really designed for the motorist," said Torres. "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."

Torres said the cable-stayed design allows for deep foundations to accommodate soil conditions. And since there won't be pylons in the middle of the water the Ship Channel will be easier to dredge.

"Doing this method allows for constructing the bridge essentially in the same footprint and there was no need for additional right-of-way," added Torres.

HCTRA's Roxana Sibrian said the new bridge will be a huge improvement in terms of safety. The current bridge only has two lanes each way with no place to pull over.

"Currently if a driver for one reason or another breaks down the roadway shuts down," explains Sibrian. "And that's not favorable for drive times."

The entire project will take about six-and-a-half years with the southbound span set for completion in 2021. All traffic will then be switched to the southbound bridge while they tear down the current bridge and build the northbound span. HCTRA says all work should be finished by 2024.

Sibrian said they plan to keep traffic moving throughout the entire effort.

"There will be passage through the area at all times and that was something that was thought of in advance," said Sibrian. "Drivers will just need to know we will be communicating actively if there is any disruption but we anticipate that passage will be available for our drivers."

The Ship Channel Bridge was converted to all-electronic tolling in 2016 and Sibrian said tolls will remain in effect while construction is underway.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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