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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Economic gains bring traffic pains

 

Last updated 9/19/2023 at 4:25pm

Fifty-five minutes travel time between Orange and Bridge City. The growing pains are blooming and people are grumbling.

Traffic between Orange and Bridge City has become a cluster mess in recent months as construction moves ahead at the new $8.5 billion Golden Triangle Polymers plant on Texas Highway 87. This week, all southbound traffic on Highway 87 will be closed during certain hours. Southbound lanes are the ones traveling from Orange to Bridge City.

Beginning on Tuesday, September 19, Highway 87 southbound lanes will be closed from FM 105, also called Western Avenue or Orangefield Road, all the way to the 4500 block of the highway, which is near Hillcrest Cemetery. The hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Wednesday, September 20; Thursday, September 21, and Friday, September 22.

If needed, the same strip will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, September 23, then again from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, September 25.

The Texas Department of Transportation reports the lane closures are needed for the installation of utility poles.

TxDOT will also be creating detours on Highway 87 southbound near Highway 62 by the Exxon convenience store as a dedicated right turn merge lane will be created to let motorists onto Highway 62 near the entrance to the Waterwood subdivision.

The traffic changes are equaling out. Traffic lanes northbound on Highway 87 going from Bridge City to Orange have had major changes throughout the summer. Last week, the intersection from Highway 87 northbound at FM 1006, or Chemical Row, was closed for several days as a three-lane turning lane was created at FM 1006.

In addition, the Texas Department of Transportation has been making changes in Bridge City along West Roundbunch Road, or FM 1442. Those changes include eliminating the turning lanes on at Bridge City Elementary School.

That stretch of highway has been affected by a large number of dump trucks and 18-wheel truck rigs heading to the new plant construction site.

For the past few months a number of Highway 87 changes have been made in the stretch between FM 105 and Highway 62 as construction increases for the new plant.

The Chevron Phillips Golden Triangle Polymers is being built on 2,000 acres of cleared land bordered by Highway 87, Foreman Road, and FM 1006. A number of highway lanes have been reconfigured along Highway 87 with various lane closures, turning changes, and the installation of concrete barriers.

The company is also building a barge dock along Cow Bayou and Highway 87 North in Bridge City. Eventually, giant pre-fabricated pieces of the new plant will be shipped to the docks, then transferred to heavy trucks to be transferred to the plant site nearby.

Roadways and areas to the plant for the transport of the heavy trucks are being installed.

The roadways affected are popular thoroughfares from the Orange area to Bridge City and Port Arthur as people in Southeast Texas live in residential areas and travel to industrial sites.

East Roundbunch Road from Bridge City to the Chemical Row (FM 1006) plants is also a well-used route. However, the road has an old swing bridge at Cow Bayou that is owned and operated by Orange County. In recent years, the swing bridge has had mechanical problems with parts difficult to replace, leading to long periods of closures because laws require the waterway to be open.

Also, the bridge, when it is operating, is opened an average of 35 times a month, or more, for water traffic.

If the bridge malfunctions during hours lanes of Highway 87 are closed, traffic between Bridge City may have to be diverted toward Highway 62 or through Orangefield.

The new plant is expected to bring up to 4,500 construction jobs to the area, along with 500 permanent jobs. The plant is targeted to open in 2026.

 

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