Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Rebuilding Highway 87… revisited

Don’t let it be said that I don’t listen.  I’ve said several times that I disagree with rebuilding Highway 87… but the people of South Jefferson County want hwy87 between Sabine Pass and the Bolivar Peninsula rebuilt, so if I’m elected, then I will get the thing built for you.

After doing some research, if I’m elected then I will propose a few things that would make the highway more palatable for the environmental groups and improve the highway lifespan from 30 years to at least 60 or more years.

My plan would be to build it as a bridge… think about the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway.  It’s 18.2 miles, slightly more than the part of hwy 87 that needs to be rebuilt.  It’s built entirely on piers for that entire distance and has withstood floods and hurricanes.

The advantages:

  • Less environmental impact.  Water and creatures can travel freely underneath the highway, leaving the wetlands pretty much as is, plus no alligators to hit while driving at night (a friend of mine hit an alligator just outside of Sabine Pass one night).
  • The highway will be more tolerant of storms and storm surge.  Say the highway is built 6-8 feet above sea level, there would have to be quite a storm to flood the highway and it would avoid damage from the constant pounding and shifting from weather
  • It could probably be built faster than if we had to stabilize every inch of roadbed.  Modern technology allows the prebuilding of lengths of road that are then moved out over the piers and placed into position.  Steel connections between sections would allow for shifting from weather, settling, and differential heating.

Disadvatages

  • It would probably be slightly more expensive, but this would have to be looked at.  I find it difficult to believe that building a bridge would cost more than having to stabilize some 93,000 feet of swamp.
  • Traffic issues: broken down cars, beach access, bird watching, emergency access, etc (more below)

For those traffic issues, I would propose two things to help out.  The first would be a great boon for Sabine Pass and High Island.  That is convince the cell phone companies to put towers in Sabine and High Island.  As far as I can tell there is only one company with excellent connections in Sabine.  The others are spotty to non-existent.  If I get stranded, I may not be able to get a call out depending on where I am.

The second affects the road/bridge itself.  I would propose to add four or five ‘wide points’ where the road extends to 4 lanes and there are under bridge turnarounds.  I would place beach access off of these points as well as making provisions for bird watchers and some additional access to the wetlands (boat ramps may not be out of the question).

This would add to the cost of the project, but hopefully turn it from just 17.5 miles of road to something that actually enhances Southeast Texas.

Comments from Civil Engineers and citizens of SE Texas welcome.

April 20, 2008 - Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas

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