By Mary Alys Cherry
If you were a fly on the mirror inside passing cars and trucks, you would probably hear motorists grumbling as they drive through heavy traffic along the Gulf Freeway and Highway 146 – one because of all the Texas Department of Transportation road work and the other because of the lack of any.
But one day in the next few years we can expect smooth sailing.
Bay Area Transportation Partnership President Barbara Koslov provided an update on the two TxDOT projects recently for the Kemah Economic Development Corporation.
Years ago, motorists who navigated the Gulf Freeway’s almost constant improvement projects used to joke that it was always under construction, and with one or two brief intermissions, that proved to be true. Opened in 1952, it was Texas’ first freeway, stretching from Houston through Galveston to the Gulf of Mexico. Today it is used by about 25 0,000 vehicles daily.
Over the years, few roads have undergone as much change as the highway that is officially known as Interstate 45 South.
Today, TxDOT is back at work again rebuilding it along the stretch that goes through the Clear Lake area and giving it a new look — widening it from six existing main lanes to ten and adding a lane to the frontage roads for a total of three in each direction from Kurland near Beltway 8 to Medical Center Boulevard in Webster. Plus, the extension of the HOV lane.
As the work rolls along toward the south, the overpasses at Dixie Farm Road, El Dorado and Bay Area Boulevard are being removed and rebuilt at grade. The Dixie Farm exchange is now at grade with TxDOT expected to close El Dorado for 100 days in the not-too-distant future.
Currently the engineers are expecting the closure to be either in August, September and October of this year or in January, February and March of 2015, the BayTran president said.
Cost of the two projects — expected to total about $200 million – is being funded by Proposition 12 bond money approved in 2007 for transportation projects.
“Construction on the first project from Kurland to Dixie Farm Road started in June 2011 and TxDOT expects to complete it in early 2016,” she said.
Work on the second project from Dixie Farm to Medical Center Boulevard started in December 2012 and the state agency expects to have the work done by 2017, she added.
As for the 3+ mile stretch of Highway 146 from Red Bluff Road in Seabrook through Kemah to Highway 96, that $200 million project is in the design stage and TxDOT hopes to get it moving in 2017.
TxDOT plans “to widen and reconstruct the existing facility to a 6-to-12 lane facility with grade separations at major intersections, access roads in selected location, express lanes over Clear Creek, a bike path on the west side and sidewalk on the east side.”
It plans to divide the work into three projects:
- Red Bluff to NASA Parkway
- NASA Parkway to the Galveston County line
- Galveston County line to State Highway 96
All three projects will be let in 2017.
Meanwhile, the project has received $30 million from the Houston-Galveston Area Council so TxDOT, working with the City of Seabrook to prioritize acquisitions, can begin purchasing property that will be affected by the road expansion.
The project is expected to affect 58 businesses, 2 single-family residences, 1 multi-family housing unit, 2 churches and 1 municipal facility.