Traffic flow severely throttled
Monday afternoon a barge, being pushed by a tug boat, the Lindberg Crosby, hit a support pier under the I-10 highway, severely damaging it.
TxDOT was forced to close the westbound lanes of the highway, until they could ascertain the extent of the damage. This caused a severe traffic jam from Highlands clear to the far side of Baytown. In addition, the entry ramp westbound at Four Corners was closed, and traffic backed up on all the side roads clear to Crosby. Some motorists headed north, to US90, but delays of over an hour were reported.
The Coast Guard told this newspaper that an investigation was underway, but did not have details on the cause of the collision at this time. Aerial photos on TV news showed the barge and a tug boat standing by just south of the highway.
Environmentalists such as Jackie Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition, expressed concern that workers repairing the damaged pier might be exposed to toxins from the nearby waste pits, which occur on both the north and south sides of the highway. She also said that the occurrence of a barge out of control was another reason why the waste pits needed totally removed from the river.
On Tuesday, at first TxDOT allowed westbound motorists to proceed in two lanes, one the regular right land and the other the shoulder. Then they totally closed the road for several hours, while they re-striped the lanes to create two regular lanes. They indicated that this will be the condition until repairs are made. An estimate of time for repairs was not available, TxDOT said, until engineers and contractors sign an agreement in several days. It is expected that this work will take weeks, perhaps months, to complete if a new pier with underwater foundation is required.
TxDOT indicated that they have a traffic division that is working to alleviate some of the jams. Harris County Pct. 2 indicated that they are not in a position to help, and it is a TxDOT responsibility, but they said they expect the westbound ramp at Four Corners to re-open soon.
Alternate routes, such as Highway 225 to the south, and US90 to the north are being recommended to avoid traffic. The county also considered expanding service on the Lynchburg Ferry, but this has not happened yet.
Motorists are advised to check each morning with Transtar and TV for updates on traffic problems.