LAREDO, March 2 - Citing a recent Texas Transportation Commission action item, state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa says progress is being made on the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge project.
Hinojosa pointed out that the TTC approved an agenda item authorizing the first step in the procurement process for construction of the new Bridge. By authorizing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), Hinojosa said, TxDOT will now be accepting proposals from firms who seek to develop, design, construct, and potentially maintain the new $700 million Bridge.
"This is a significant step forward for the progress of the new Harbor Bridge and the Coastal Bend," Hinojosa said. "The day we break ground on this project will go down in the history books as one of the Coastal Bend's greatest days. The jobs that the new Harbor Bridge will attract to the region will further strengthen the region's economic vitality for years to come while the enhanced safety component of the new bridge is one this community needs."
James Bass, TxDOT interim executive director, said the Texas Department of Transportation is seeking to package the project under a single agreement to design and build the 3.6-mile project and demolish the existing facility once the new project is open to traffic. “This is a significant milestone for the project and approximately two years earlier than our original schedule. We could not be more proud of the partnership forged by local, state and private entities to accelerate this project and get us to this point,” Bass said.
As senator for District 20, Hinojosa represents Corpus Christi. He said that the current Harbor Bridge poses significant risks to drivers and pedestrians alike due to steep vertical grades, dangerous access ramps, sharp curves, a lack of shoulders, and a 28-inch pedestrian foot path.
In a news release, Hinojosa said the route for the new bridge, the "Red Route," best addresses such safety concerns. He said it also minimizes impacts to the community and the environment. He said the new bridge will include three 12-foot lanes in each direction (more than double the length of the old span) with a median barrier, enhanced shoulders, reduced vertical grades, and a pedestrian and bicycle path at least 8-feet wide. Hinojosa said the bridge will also feature a 205 foot vertical air clearance, opening the door to larger vessels and increased economic activity to the region.
Hinojosa pointed out that Senate Bill 1730, which was approved during last year's legislative session, authorized TxDOT to enter into a comprehensive development agreement for the U.S. 181 Harbor Bridge project in Nueces County. He said the development and completion of the Harbor Bridge project can be expedited through the use of a public-private partnership agreement, and the employment of innovative methods for the development and financing of projects that are available to a public-private partnership agreement.
Here is an op-ed from Hinojosa about the $700 million Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge project:
Bridging the Future
by State Senator Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa
CORPUS CHRISTI, March 2 - Nearly 30,000 vehicles cross the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge every day, a true testament to its function as a vital link between our communities. Constructed over 50 years ago, the Harbor Bridge has become the defining feature of the Corpus Christi skyline, complete with vibrant nighttime neon lights.
So perhaps replacing such a community fixture may seem worrisome to some. But I can assure you that is not the case. \
Replacing the Harbor Bridge ensures that Corpus Christi, not to mention the skyline itself, will continue to have a striking presence and will thrive as a local and international port promising economic growth, prosperity, jobs and endless opportunities for years to come.
With steep vertical grades, dangerous access ramps, sharp curves, a lack of shoulders, and a 28-inch pedestrian foot path, the Harbor Bridge as it now stands poses significant risks to drivers and pedestrians alike. The preferred route for the new bridge, the "Red Route," best addresses these safety concerns as well as minimizes impacts to the community and environment.
Specifically, the new bridge will include three 12-foot lanes in each direction (more than double the length of the old span) with a median barrier, enhanced shoulders, reduced vertical grades, and a pedestrian and bicycle path at least 8-feet wide.
The Harbor Bridge replacement will also boast a 205-foot vertical air clearance -- a feature having significant economic implications for Corpus Christi and the greater Coastal Bend. The expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to usher in an increase in international shipping activity with much larger cargo vessels. A single shipping vessel will now be able to carry 12,000 shipping containers as opposed to the current 4,000 containers, while the tourism industry will see significant growth as large cruise ships will now be able to pass into the inner harbor to dock. The higher clearance on the new bridge will not only be able to accommodate these larger vessels and ensure that Corpus Christi remains competitive in the global market, but will also bring thousands of new jobs and attract new businesses and investments in the Coastal Bend.
In 2002 when first elected as your State Senator, I made a commitment to the people of Corpus Christi to make the Harbor Bridge project a priority, and did so with full knowledge of the political and economic challenges ahead. We knew that as a community, we could overcome these challenges and accomplish this vision through a unified mindset and collaboration. The Harbor Bridge, as well as the economic opportunities it will bring to the Coastal Bend, would have remained an improbable dream were it not for the bipartisan cooperation and dedication of our community leaders, local public officials, TxDOT, and the private sector who worked tirelessly to make funding this bridge a reality.
Today, with over $600 million in funds secured and $100 million pledged from our local communities, we are finally within reach of providing great opportunities to benefit our South Texas economy and boost our quality of life. With the Harbor Bridge replacement, we are seeing over a decade of planning and development come to fruition. I am honored to represent the people of South Texas as we are literally bridging the Coastal Bend to the rest of the world and to the future.