Thursday, December 31, 2009
If you're hitting the highway tonight, be extra careful to watch for the drunks.
Drive safe and enjoy your holiday.
Monday, December 28, 2009
10. Icy weather causes trouble on area bridges and overpasses
The December winter weather brought snow and ice to overpasses and bridges throughout the Beaumont District. Area police reported hundreds of wrecks from drivers who didn't know the term "slow down". TxDOT crews spread tons of rock to help break apart the ice. Fortunately, we only had to encounter one night of the slick stuff.
9. Vidor frontage roads extended
As part of the I-10 reconstruction project through Vidor, the frontage roads were extended crossing the KCS railroad tracks. This gives the area a continuous frontage road from the Neches River Bridge to Cow Bayou. And the Cow Bayou section is about to have a continuous frontage road in just a few months. This great for the area's economic development.
8. Safety Rest Areas to be constructed
TxDOT awarded a contract to build two new rest areas in Chambers County. They will be constructed where the weigh stations currently exist on I-10. The new areas will feature interactive education centers and be built to reflect the area's history and architecture.
7. SH 105 Cleveland Loop
The Liberty Area Office completed construction of the first section of the Cleveland Loop from SH 105 on the east side of town to FM 1010. The project will soon open to local traffic only. In early 2010, TxDOT will oversee the construction of the second phase of the project from FM 1010 to west of Cleveland. This will help keep traffic out of the center of town and tying up the downtown area.
6. FM 365 (Port Arthur)
Years in the making, the expansion of the highway between West Port Arthur Road and US 69 is finally about to happen. Thanks to economic stimulus funding and the support from Port Arthur Mayor Delores Prince, the project to widen the highway from two-lanes to five-lanes begins the middle of 2010.
5. SH 82 Causeway Bridge
While it's a piece of engineering nostalgia, the old causeway bridge connecting Texas to Louisiana was one in need of replacing. TxDOT recently opened the new structure and the contractor is removing the old swing bridge that's served for many years. Despite efforts late in the game by some people wanting to convert the old swing bridge to a fishing pier, the old structure will soon be a thing of the past. The high cost of refurbishing the bridge just to handle pedistrian traffic as well as the liablity in taking over the old bridge were some of the reasons why it had to come down.
4. I-10 Trinity River Bridge
It's probably one of the more popular bridges in the district. Now, it's in the process of being demolished. TxDOT recently opened one of the bridges and is currently constructing the second bridge. When completed, one will handle eastbound traffic while the other will handle westbound motorists.
3. I-10 Cable Barrier system
As traffic continues to increase on I-10, so do the number of wrecks. One area that has experienced a number of fatal wrecks has been the stretch near the Goodyear plant. To help lower the number of wrecks from drivers crossing the median, the district was able to get funding to install a new cable barrier system. The system is designed to help stop vehicles by slowing them down before the hit another vehicle head-on. Construction is set to begin early 2010
2. I-10 Adam Bayou
Economic stimulus funding played a big role in getting this project off the drawing board and into the pipeline. The district teamed up with the local transportation group, pooling money to expand the highway from SH 62 to Adams Bayou. Construction begins in 2010. However, getting the project to the point where it is ready to go to construction was a major milestone. When completed, the only stretch of interstate needing rebuilding in Orange County will be the section from Adams Bayou to the Louisiana State line.
1. Funding and the legislature
Money, or rather the lack of it, tops this year's top 10 list. It takes money to build roads. Unfortunately, there's not much of it. A fuels tax that hasn't seen an increase since 1991, more fuel efficient vehicles, a growing population, and recissions in federal money coming to Texas have created a funding nightmare. With more than $300 BILLION of projects needing funding by the year 2030, Texans have a monumental challenge to overcome. TxDOT also took a hit in the legislative session as lawmakers failed to renew the department. A special session took care of that, however. All of this does have a silver lining; Texans are becoming more aware of the growing funding issues and its effect on highways and roads.
Enjoy the new year.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The AAA estimates more than 87 million motorists will travel the highways of America during the Christmas and New Year holidays. That's a lot of rubber on the road. We're sure to see our share here in Texas.
Fortunately, most highway construction involving a lane closure has been postponed in the Beaumont District. There is one lane closure on I-10 eastbound between the KCS overpass and SH 62 until Tuesday the 22nd. However, barring emergency roadwork, everything should be free and clear. While you might see highway crews working the day after Christmas, all of that should be behind concrete traffic barrier in which there is a permanent lane closure.
Also, be sure to drive safely and defensively. Watch out for the other guy. And don't think about drinking and driving. Law enforcement from across Texas will be out in full force read to catch those who hit the booze and get behind the wheel.
Have a great trip and Merry Christmas.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Your baby grandson or granddaughter's car could be fully electric. That's what Ford Motor Company is betting on.
The company says that by the year 2030 practically all cars will be electric. The above video can fill in the details.
Again, the big question is how will this effect a highway system that is built and maintained with a fuels tax. There's been a lot of talk about the Vehicle Mileage Tax, or VTM, possible coming to Texas. Of course, it's just all talk for now. The Texas Transportation Commission has a group looking into how (or if) it would work in the Lone Star State.
This has gotten a lot of people up in arms about taxation and privacy. But it's also opened some much-needed discussion as to the major problem we are facing in terms of funding our highway system.
Whether you are for or against a VTM, there is one thing all Texans must agree on: We all have a huge transportation funding crisis that needs fixing.
Texas, we have a problem.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The project contractor, Austin Bridge, opened the bridge late Thursday. The opening ends a two year project to replace the old swing bridge built in the late 50's.
Hurricane Rita damaged the old swing bridge forcing the state to come up with ways of either repairing or replacing it. FEMA stepped in and paid for the construction of a new bridge tall enough to handle boat traffic.
The total project cost approximately $20 million and will take relatively little maintenance compared to the old swing bridge.
We are looking for your ideas to get us where we want to go.
Join the transportation discussion during the fifth annual
Texas Transportation Forum, Jan. 6-8, 2010, in Austin.
For more information, visit www.TexasTransportationForum.com
Monday, December 7, 2009
"There ain't no such thing as a free latte." Okay, I changed the quote just a bit. But I think you still get the picture; nothing in life is free. This includes highways.
At TxDOT, we often hear how everyone ought to be able to drive on "free" highways. We even call large highways, "Freeways".
Contrary to popular belief, you DO pay to use the highway system. Each time you fill up your vehicle with gasoline, you pay 38.4 cents per gallon no matter the cost of a gallon of fuel. About half of that is the state fuels tax. The other is a federal fuels tax. (Diesel is a bit higher).
That means most people pay about $8 in fuels tax each time they fill up. Filling up each week runs about $32 a month in fuels tax. So, for $32 a month, you get to use the highway system. Expensive? Hmmm.... well, maybe not.
Consider the following:
Average cost of lattes per month: $106 ($5.32 @ 5 times a week)
Average cost of coffee per month (1999 figures): $14
Average simple monthly cell phone bill: $63 www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=203101082
Average monthly cost of eating out (Family of 4, three times a week): $300 www.essortment.com/career/spendlessdinin_sfef.htm
Average cost of Halloween candy: $40
Average monthly cost of owning a dog: $60-$235
We could go on and on. But, as you can see, most of us are willing to pay quite a bit more for things that really are mere luxuries. Yes, for some, life without that morning coffee would be a tremendous setback. Now, imagine life without a highway sytem.
The next time you hear someone calling for "free highways", ask them why they believe "Freeways" are free.
Better yet, ask them to put down that $5 latte and ask them how much they think the highway system is worth to them. Just as there aren't free lattes, there aren't freeways.
Perhaps we need a new slogan at TxDOT. How about "Nix a latte, fix a pothole"?
What do you think is the best way to solve the state's transportation problems? Take our poll on the right side of the site. Give us your thoughts.
Friday, December 4, 2009
From hurricanes to snow. Welcome to Southeast Texas.
TxDOT crews are prepared to handle the expect snow and ice expected to hit the Golden Triangle. Crews have loaded dump trucks with rock designed to help break up any ice on overpasses and bridges.
Timing is everything. Putting the rock out too soon means vehicles blow it off the road surface. Therefore, crews spread the rock at just the right time; when the overpass first starts to freeze.
Our primary focus is on those bridges crossing waterways. These have a tendency to freeze quicker than the others. That means bridges such as the Veterans Memorial, Rainbow, MLK, and Intracoastal bridges have a greater chance of having ice on the bridge's riding surface.
The best advice is to stay home unless you absolutely have to get out on the road. If you have to travel, remember that overpasses and bridges will freeze long before the highway or road does.
Make sure to watch out for TxDOT trucks spreading rock on overpasses and bridges. Stay back and give them plenty of room.
For an update on closures, make sure to visit: www.txdot.gov/travel/road_conditions.htm