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Yale Street Bridge to get makeover

You may recall that last November the load limit on the Yale Street Bridge was reduced by TxDOT to 8,000 lbs per single axle and 10,000 lbs per tandem axle, which has resulted in truck traffic being forbidden on the bridge. That hasn’t stopped trucks from actually using it, of course, but they’re not supposed to. Anyway, since then a few more things have happened:

– An inspection and assessment of the bridge by Entech Civil Engineers says that it really should have a load limit of 7200 lbs, which is basically a full-size SUV with multiple passengers.

– Neighborhood leaders sent a letter to the city asking for Something To Be Done about this:

Necessary Action

As indicated above, based on the ratings of the Yale Street Bridge, corrective action is required; based on the current ratings, according to TXDOT, this bridge is either one of the top or the top bridge in Texas eligible for replacement based on TxDOT’s and the Federal Highway Administration’s criteria for distributing Federal and State Funds. The required corrective action is reconstruction of the Yale Street Bridge. Since this is a City-owned Bridge, the process to prioritize the Bridge for replacement and to solicit the necessary funding begins with the City. With City budget and CIP discussion now underway, this is the time to address it so that it will be included in the current CIP priority list. Eighty percent (80%) of the funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, 10% from TXDOT and 10% from the
City’s budget. This means that this problem can be addressed promptly and with a limited impact on the City’s budget. The Bridge should be reconstructed BEFORE it has to be closed due to low ratings.

– The city sent a reply saying that the Department of Public Works and Engineering was working with TxDOT to apply for federal funds to help with the cost of fixing the bridge, for which candidate projects will be nominated to the Federal Highway Administration in 2012.

Not clear what happens if the project doesn’t get the federal funds, though the city did say that it would try to work it out through the District C Council office. See this press advisory, this letter from CM Cohen, and this story in The Leader for more.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct link to that story in The Leader.

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9 Comments

  1. Jules says:

    Charles, thanks for posting this.

    If the bridge does not qualify for Federal Funding this September, it should be closed, according to TxDOT’s Bridge Inspection Manual.

    http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/ins/legal_loads_and_load_posting.htm

    See Section 5.5 and Figure 5-4 Off-System Load Posting Guidlines. The Inventory Rating, according to the Entech Report, is now a 2.0. Once the Inventory Rating is below a 3.0, according to TxDOT, the bridge can only remain open for 24 months, unless it doesn’t qualify for Federal Funding (Priority 1), in which case it should be closed immediately.

    One piece of information that the Entech Report does not provide is the Operating Rating. If the Operating Rating is below a 3.0, the bridge should be immediately closed, according to TxDOT’s Bridge Inspection Manual. What is the Operating Rating?

    There are more questions that need to answered about this bridge, including why it wasn’t requested/approved for Federal Funds in 2010 or 2011. And more immediate questions such as should the posted load limit signs be changed, should TxDOT be backing traffic up on the bridge with the light at the feeder (knowing that they can not keep over limit traffic off the bridge), and when, exactly should this bridge be closed?

    I’ve been following this bridge issue for some time now, and after the Entech Report, I’m not driving on it any more.

  2. Blakey says:

    It is absolutely stunning that all of this information was discovered and pursued by a group of local residents. The condition and, at a bare minimum, load rating for infrastructure on the main route to all this City-funded new development should have been noted in Ainbinder’s Traffic Impact Analysis.

    That the City accepted and approved that analysis with this serious oversight indicates that they are more interested in greasing the skids for developers than they are in protecting public safety. The new feeder intersections are now open and we’re all witnessing cars backing up on that bridge deck. The City and TxDOT continue to delay and obfuscate while putting area residents at risk!

  3. Melissa says:

    I don’t know why this bridge would qualify for federal funds, its not a “highway” bridge, it is a city bridge .. unless they are claiming it as part of I-10. Of course most of Houston’s highways are about 60% federally funded as part of the Inter-State system, at least I-10, I-45 and the 610 Loop, its what has kept Houston’s costs down on maintaining their roads.

  4. Ross says:

    Blakey, perhaps the previous analysis used the State’s and the City’s information, which had the bridge rated much higher than it is now. It’s not really up to the developer to redo all of the work the government is supposed to do.

  5. Jules says:

    Ross, exactly – why did the City and State have the bridge rated so high in early 2011?

    The Entech report says that the load limits were downgraded from the 40,000 gross/21,000 tandem axle in late 2010 (page 4) due to typical tensile steel used at the time the bridge was built. However, the new (current) signs didn’t go up until November 2011.

    Why did it take a year for the new signs to go up? And should the current posted limits be lowered in light of the Entech report?

    And why did the City allow Ainbinder to do over $115K worth of purely cosmetic work to this bridge this year? The City is going to have to repay Ainbinder for this work plus unknown and uncapped interest. New balusters and paint on a bridge that is scheduled for demolition is a waste of our tax money.

    The biggest question is: when should this bridge be closed?

  6. Radbourn says:

    That developer didn’t even identify the old load limits on the bridge. They would have had to redirect big rigs around it and that wasn’t worth noting? It’s pretty obvious that the developer didn’t want to mention the bridge issue because they wanted the City to give them money for work on their site, not on the main route to it. Mayor Parker could have had City attorney’s write that 380 to pay for the City’s portion of bridge reconstruction, but instead they subsidized private construction for a private corporation. Government waste and corruption at it’s finest.

  7. Jules says:

    out of cycle funding has been secured for the Yale Street Bridge:

    http://www.theleadernews.com/?p=716

  8. Lindsey says:

    I live in close proximity of the yale bridge. I can tell you first hand that during rush hour traffic, there are cars, large trucks, SUVs literally stopped sitting on the bridge. In addition to everyones concerns, most people fail to notice the colony of transients living directly under the Yale street bridge. They are hard to miss as they have acquired couches, beds, grills, etc. My concerns about these people used to be directed on the fact that it raises crime in our community and for simple fact that it’s an eye sore and concern for home owners. However I am now truly concerned for the safety of these human beings living under such an unsafe bridge. I contact HPD a few times a week regarding the issue and nothing is ever done to evict them. Does anyone have any advice on relocating these people to a shelter etc? The city of Houston needs to be aware that this is a huge danger and risk.

  9. […] here for the previous update, and here for the TxDOT memo, which lays out the estimated timeline. Five […]