Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Rebuilding Highway 87

Another candidate for the Precinct 3 Commissioners slot wants to rebuild Highway 87 between Sea Rim State Park and High Island.

I remember driving from Sabine Pass to Galveston many years ago and that highway made it possible.  It was a lovely drive and a great time.  However, objective reality is that we will not be able to rebuild that road.  Wait, we can rebuild the road… we have the technology.  Then, in 15 or 20 years, the ocean will come in and wash it away… again.

Ask any Geologist familiar with this area.  Southeast Texas (indeed, most of the Gulf Coast) is built on 10,000 feet of sand.  It is sinking.  Our coastline is eroding.  It has been eroding for the last few thousand years and will continue to erode for a few thousand years.  The rate in the area for the highway 87 rebuild is about 8 feet lost per year.  So building the road 240 feet inland means that the road will only last for 30 years.

There will be an, as yet undetermined, impact on the wetlands by building this road.  The wetlands are vital for the health of our ecology and as a natural barrier against stom surge.  The road might not have a major impact on the wetlands, but building it surely will.

Finally, this project will cost about $20 million dollars (as of 2001) or $30 million with the normal cost overruns.  The state of Texas (TXDOT) was willing to rebuild it if the permits could be obtained.  They have not been obtained to date.

Now the critical question; How many people will it serve?   Will this be a major artery of Texas commerce?  I doubt it.

The people of Southeast Texas have lived without this road since 1990 when it closed (though you could still drive it a few years after that).  Yes, there is a small safety concern for the people of Sabine Pass.  I work there.  I drive there every work day.  I drive over that Intercoastal Canal bridge.  I drive over the Keith Lake fish pass.  I’ve driven that road when it was almost completely underwater.

So, yes, I agree there is a concern.  One mistake by a barge captain could isolate Sabine Pass for  months… kind of.  One of the ladies I work with lived in Sabine Pass when the IC Bridge was damaged.  This was before 1990, so everyone drove their cars around through High Island, parked them on the other side and had someone with a boat run them over each time they needed to get back and forth.

Which brings me to my solution for the safety of Sabine Pass residents.  Let’s set-up an emergency ferry plan.  We should be able to get a ferry from the state for the duration of an emergency like the IC Bridge collapsing.  With a little prep work, there should be several places near Sabine Pass and either in Port Arthur or Pleasure Island where the ferry could dock.

As a Libertarian, I can not justify the spending of $20 million plus for a road with minimal life span, minimal traffic, and minimal value. Not when we can make a few plans and render most of the value of the road a moot point.

So, the high school football team will have to take two hours to get to High Island instead of 30 minutes.  They hate having to leave early.

Some useful links I used for research

Texas Freeway’s Highway 87 page

Photos of Highway 87

December 3, 2007 - Posted by | Jefferson County, Texas

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