Several state representatives saw first hand the damage sustained to the Interstate 10 San Jacinto Bridge as they work toward preventative measures to avoid another barge strike.
State Representative Mayes Middleton, along with State Senator Brandon Creighton, State Rep. Briscoe Cain and State Rep. Dennis Paul, visited the site Wednesday morning and were given an update about repairs by the Texas Department of Transportation.
The expectation is for the bridge to be repaired and in service by late February or early March.
“I understand the contract has been signed and they’re going to be working on it,” Cain said. “So we will continue to bulldog it and be that a squeaky wheel.”
While the short-term solution is to repair the columns, state representatives want to replace the bridge.
“It doesn’t need to be a piling-style bridge and it needs to be something suspended to avoid (another barge strike), which is currently being talked about,” Cain said. “Currently though, they’re fixing fenders to allow for some of the traffic to start back up and they’re adding lights underneath the bridge this weekend to help with visibility.”
Cain said it would require state and federal funding to replace the current bridge, which is a priority for him.
The San Jacinto Bridge was damaged for the second time this year when nine barges broke loose during Tropical Storm Imelda.
Two barges were subsequently stuck beneath the west side bridge while carrying 10,000 barrels of naptha and 17,000 barrels of monoethylene glycol.
Cain said three pillars were hit as a result of the latest barge strike. The area that sustained the most damage was the same area that was struck in a separate incident earlier this year.
“I’ve heard a lot of constituents ask why there are not things to prevent that. (And it’s because) where it was hit is not the navigable part of the waterway,” Cain said. “Those dolphin structures and fenders protect the navigable part — the middle of the bridge — but there’s nothing there to really stop barges from going through that section. In fact, they’re not supposed to go through there.”
Cain added that they’re having conversations about putting bumpers in place to prevent loose barges from hitting the problematic area, which has now been struck twice this year, but right now the priority is to repair the bridge.
Neither Rep. Middleton nor Senator Creighton responded to questions about the bridge.