According to a preliminary assessment released on Jan. 3 by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration, a preferred alternative route for the Harbor Bridge has been chosen, known as the "Red Alternative."
The assessment, entitled the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS), examines economical, environmental and social effects of the proposed project, according to TxDOT.
"The Draft EIS identifies the Red Alternative as the preferred route because it best meets the project’s need and purpose, which is to maintain a long-term crossing of US 181 over the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and to improve the safety of the traveling public, it has the least impact on the environment and offers the best potential to mitigate any potential effects," said Rickey Dailey, TxDOT public information officer.
Four other potential routes and a "no-build" option were also in consideration before TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration made their decision.
With the support of the City of Corpus Christi, Port of Corpus Christi Authority, Nueces County and the Corpus Christi Metropolitan Planning Organization, a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Ortiz Center and public comment closes March 3. TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will then make a final decision in late 2014.
After The process of permitting, right of way acquisition and preparation of a construction plan, the project will go into construction, and is expected to take about four years to complete, with an estimated completion date of 2020.
“We are excited that this historic project has reached another milestone and continues to move ahead. We look forward to the public hearing on the recommended route scheduled for Feb. 18 and we appreciate the hard work and support of the public, elected officials and key stakeholders,” said Lonnie Gregorcyk, P.E., district engineer for TxDOT’s Corpus Christi District.
In a statement released by TxDOT, the Red Alternative route is described as having the new bridge (which would have three lanes in each direction, and a 10-foot bicycle and pedestian path) approximately 1,000 feet west of the existing bridge.
In addition to replacing the existing span, the project would reconstruct portions of US 181, I-37 and SH 286 (Crosstown Expressway), including a new interchange at I-37 and SH 286 with four direct connector ramps. The new bridge would have three 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, a median barrier, 12-foot inside and 10-foot outside shoulders and a 10-foot bicycle / pedestrian path.
Of course, as with anything new, there is a cost. The Draft EIS states that construction costs for the project are estimated in the $558 million to $679 million range. In preparation, TxDOT has set aside $633 million for the project and local sources have dedicated another $100 million.
Work to develop the Draft EIS began in 2011. The idea was birthed from a feasibility study of the potential for replacing the Harbor Bridge, which began in 2001 and was completed in 2003. TxDOT views the Draft EIS and the "Red Alternative" as an investment in the continued and "improved safety for the traveling public."