As one of the busiest seaports in the world, Houston has become an important city for industrial and commercial projects. Located in Harris County, Texas, Houston has over 1,200 miles of highways for the millions of trucks and cars that travel there each year. But there are more than just automobiles moving in and out of the city. Thousands of ships of all sizes come and go each day bringing goods from all over the world. Along with that, there are about 120 major utility pipelines in the area, along with bustling PTRA and UPRR rail lines. Houston’s ship channel bridge supports a multi-billion dollar import/export business.
The main thoroughfare for these large ships is the Houston Ship Channel. At the moment, it is 750 feet wide and 50 miles long. Due to the increase in global commerce, this is simply not big enough anymore.
One billion plus six years to complete ship channel bridge
A new project that is set to begin work in early 2018 will be the expansion of the Houston Ship Channel. The new bridge will increase to over 1,300 feet wide. The project will cost approximately $962 million but could easily go above that amount. It is scheduled to require about six years to complete. Construction work will be ongoing in the Ship Channel and include the islands located there.
The current bridge carries around 55,000 autos per day. Experts believe that by 2035, that number will increase to 158,000 vehicles a day, making the new bridge essential. The new ship channel will have two bridges that carry four lanes of traffic each with full shoulders in both directions. This is a vast improvement over the current bridge with only two lanes of traffic in each direction and no shoulders.
Funding for the new ship channel bridge
The new ship channel project will be funded by toll system debt and revenues. When completed in 2024, the new ship channel bridge will greatly increase Houston’s ability to compete as one of the world’s busiest seaports.
The bridge will be completed in phases, so as not to impede traffic and commerce in the area. The first phase will include completion of a new southbound bridge by 2021. This will allow traffic to be redirected onto the new bridge.
One of the biggest challenges of the construction project has been poor soil conditions in the area. Due to the massive nature of the bridge, the bridge pylons will have to be located deep in the soil. Experts believe that the drill shafts for these pylons must be constructed at least 200 feet deep. A cable-stayed bridge is thought to be the optimal structure to use for this type of bridge considering the poor soil conditions. The suspension cables will measure over 500 feet tall, according to a spokesman for the project.
Design and construction
Ship Channel Constructors will undertake this important construction project in Houston. This company is a joint venture between San Antonio-based Zachry Group and Indiana-based Traylor Brothers. Florida-based FIGG Bridge Group was the designer of the main span cable-stayed bridge.
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