Nearly 30,000 vehicles cross the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge every day, a true testament to its function as a vital link between our communities. Constructed over 50 years ago, the Harbor Bridge has become the defining feature of the Corpus Christi skyline, complete with vibrant nighttime neon lights. So perhaps replacing such a community fixture may seem worrisome to some. But I can assure you that is not the case. Replacing the Harbor Bridge ensures that Corpus Christi, not to mention the skyline itself, will continue to have a striking presence and will thrive as a local and international port promising economic growth, prosperity, jobs and endless opportunities for years to come.
With steep vertical grades, dangerous access ramps, sharp curves, a lack of shoulders, and a 28-inch pedestrian foot path, the Harbor Bridge as it now stands poses significant risks to drivers and pedestrians alike. The preferred route for the new bridge, the "Red Route," bestaddresses these safety concerns as well as minimizes impacts to the community and environment. Specifically, the new bridge will include three 12-foot lanes in each direction (more than double the length of the old span) with a median barrier, enhanced shoulders, reduced vertical grades, and a pedestrian and bicycle path at least 8-feet wide.
The Harbor Bridge replacement will also boast a 205-foot vertical air clearance -- a feature having significant economic implications for Corpus Christi and the greater Coastal Bend. The expansion of the Panama Canal is expected tousher in an increase ininternational shipping activity with much larger cargo vessels. A single shipping vesselwill now be able to carry 12,000 shipping containers as opposed to the current 4,000 containers, while the tourism industry will see significant growth as large cruise ships will now be able to pass into the inner harbor to dock. The higher clearance on the new bridge will not only be able to accommodate theselarger vessels and ensure that Corpus Christi remains competitive in the global market, but will also bring thousands of new jobs and attract new businesses and investments in the Coastal Bend.
In 2002 when first elected as your State Senator, I made a commitment to the people of Corpus Christito make the Harbor Bridge project a priority, and did so with full knowledge of the political and economic challenges ahead. We knew that as a community, we could overcome these challenges and accomplish this vision through a unified mindset and collaboration. The Harbor Bridge, as well as the economic opportunities it will bring to the Coastal Bend, would have remained an improbable dream were it not for the bipartisan cooperation and dedication of our community leaders, local public officials, TxDOT, and the private sector who worked tirelessly to make funding this bridge a reality.
Today, with over $600 million in funds secured and $100 million pledged from our local communities, we are finally within reach of providing great opportunities to benefit our South Texas economy and boost our quality of life. With the Harbor Bridge replacement, we are seeing over a decade of planning and development come to fruition. I am honored to represent the people of South Texas as we are literally bridging the Coastal Bend to the rest of the world and to the future.