If you've ever been caught in road work on the Neches River Bridge, you know what it means to be stuck in traffic. It's not fun for you and it no fun for the maintenance crews making repairs.
So what's up with the Neches River bridge and repairing it in the middle of rush hour traffic?
First of all, there's no danger the bridge will collapse. Calling it "emergency repairs" simply means crews need to get out and make repairs quickly so the problem doesn't become one that forces them to shut down all lanes of the bridge. Second, the problem seems relatively simple and benign; they're repairing a pothole.
But repairing a pothole on the bridge isn't the same as repairing a pothole on a roadway. On your average neighborhood road, take some asphalt, drop it in the hole, and move on to the next problem. Vibrations and movement of a bridge can cause a pothole to spread over a much larger area very quickly. Therefore, crews need to get out and make repairs to keep the hole from getting wider, not necessarily deeper.
The Neches River's bridge deck (or riding surface) is made up of tons of concrete and steel with a thin layer of asphalt. When a pothole appears, it because of the concrete under the asphalt begins to crumble from heavy traffic. More traffic, including trucks, hitting the pothole makes it grow wider very quickly. If you were to get up on the bridge and look down into the hole, you would see a HUGE mass of steel intertwined to keep the bridge intact and therefore safe. So, it's not a matter of anyone falling through to the river. The problem is the longer they wait to make repairs, the quicker it grows outward and affects the other travel lanes. Then you have a major repair problem where you have to shut down all of the bridge and re-route traffic. Nobody wants to do that.
Crews make repairs by busting out the concrete and shaping the area to handle concrete. This takes time and a lot of skill. Afterwards, crews pour quick setting concrete. It takes about two hours for the concrete to cure to the point traffic can be turned loose. This is probably the most frustrating part of the whole process. Getting the right type of concrete is extremely important: concrete that cures too rapidly will become brittle and break apart quickly forcing crews to get out there once again and repeat the same process. Concrete that cures too slow means delays that stretch well into the night and early morning.
There isn't much they can do except sit and monitor the curing. It's the one part of the process crews..and you...probably hate the most because as people drive by the site of the work, they see a group of workers appearing to do nothing but "hang out". Trust me. These guys have absolutely NO desire to hang out on top of the Neches River Bridge on a Monday night getting verbally abused and having bottles and garbage thrown at them. They are simply waiting for the concrete to get hard enough for traffic.
Once the concrete is ready, they get the "heck out of Dodge" and head back to the yard to get cleaned up and head home. It's been too long of a night.
So, just remember, these maintenance crews are up on the bridge deck doing us all a great service. Yes, it's frustrating being stuck in traffic. But think about the alternative of not having anyone making any repairs to your bridges and roadways.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
It's some of the best life-saving systems ever to come to a highway. Now, TxDOT is about to install cable-barrier along a stretch of I-10 between Beaumont and Winnie.
Cable-barrier is designed to help stop head-on collisions along interstates and other divided highways with wide medians. It's really a simple idea. A vehicle hitting the barrier is slowed much like a jet landing on an aircraft carrier. The barrier gives just enough to slow the vehicle and keep it from going into the oncoming lanes.
TxDOT is placing it along an 18-mile portion of the interstate between Beaumont and Winnie. For years, the Beaumont District has been working to get barrier to this stretch of roadway because of its high rate of head-on collisions due to driver negligence.
The $2 million project begins January 19 and should be completed by the summer. Cable systems aren't new to the district. Portions of the interstate in Chambers and Orange County have the system installed. Also, sections of Eastex Freeway and Cardinal drive have been lined with barrier system.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It's one of life's great mysteries. That is, until now.
You are creeping along at a snail's pace in traffic thinking there's wreck just up the highway. Suddenly, you start moving again at the speed limit for no apparent reason. You're left scratching your head as to just what happened.
Well, Japanese researchers may have found the reason; shock waves. No, not the earthquake kind. More like the "driver who wasn't paying attention" kind.
The video above shows how it works.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Just when you thought it was about to wind down, comes another project along a stretch of I-10 in Orange County.
Next month, TxDOT is expected to open bids to reconstruct a section of the interstate between Womack Road and Adams Bayou. The $35 million project includes making some major improvements to one of the oldest portions of interstate in the U.S.. Work is set to begin in April or May.
Flashback 10 years ago: Orange County residents were complaining that their county was being neglected in highway reconstruction dollars. TxDOT said "Hold on; your share is coming." And did it ever come to Orange County!
A total of four major reconstruction projects have either been completed or are underway. The first project was to reconstruct the Sabine River Bridge at the Louisiana border. The second project involved widening the interstate through Rose City. Now, two separate contractors are rebuilding I-10 between North Dewitt in Vidor to near SH 62. Both projects are expected to wrap up the middle of this year.
The newest project, between Womack and Adams, shouldn't be as big of a project as the other two currently underway. But for those of you who drive in Orange County, it's another project to drive through. During construction, people tend to complain a bit. However, I've never received a phone call after the fact from anyone complaining about the improvements, wishing it would go back to being the old dilapidated highway it once was.
The only major I-10 reconstruction project left to do in Orange County is from Adams Bayou to the Louisiana border. No word as to when this will take place. However, TxDOT continues working the design plans and needed clearances to get the project off the ground.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Forget the New Year's eve parties and resolutions! It's time to talk transportation.
Okay, we are kidding. Transportation isn't as exciting as celebrating the new year. However, it is one of the most important...and most used...service you use on a daily basis.
The 2010 Texas Transportation Forum kicks off this Wednesday in Austin. The purpose is to get transportation "gurus" and leaders together and look for ways of solving some of Texas' biggest problems in transportation; funding and getting people from point "A" to point "B" in the most efficient and effective way possible.
You can follow some of the happenings at www.keeptexasmoving.com. However, for those of you who can't wait to get all the "excitement" before it hits the newsstand, shoot me your email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send you up-to-the-minute updates on some of the announcements as they happen.