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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

TxDOT removing low Adams Bayou bridges

 

Last updated 10/3/2023 at 7:49pm

This is the roadway of the eastbound access road Adams Bayou bridge of Interstate 10 in Orange. The westbound access road bridge can be seen in the background underneath the main interstate bridge, which is elevated. The Texas Department of Transportation will be removing the low access road bridges after local officials lobbied because the low bridges were hindering drainage down the bayou from areas north of the interstate.

The Texas Department of Transportation is closing some lanes of the Interstate 10 access road, a move that will make people living north of the interstate in the eastern part of the county happy.

TxDOT is tearing down the low bridges across Adams Bayou on the east and west access roads. Property owners and local government officials have wanted the bridges down because they interfere with the flow of rain water southward to the Sabine River. Adams Bayou drains areas as far north as Mauriceville.

"It's been a long time coming. We've been through four area (TxDOT) engineers on this issue," said Orange County Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan.

He predicts it will take the highway department a week to tear down and remove one of the two bridges, and then another week for the same for the other bridge.

"I'm thinking it's going to go pretty quickly," he said.

TxDOT began preparing for the lane closures on Tuesday. Traffic on the access roads eastbound and westbound will be diverted to the main Interstate 10 bridge, which is much higher than the access road bridges.

Travelers should get accustomed to the detours. Trahan said they will become permanent as TxDOT added a lane on each direction of the main bridge to accommodate the traffic that will need to enter at one side of the bayou and exit immediately after crossing.

The special lanes are needed because traffic on the access roads would not be able to cross the bayou. As part of the bridge removal project, TxDOT is rebuilding the turn around roads at each direction of the bayou.

Trahan said the short entrances and exits at the main bridge will allow traffic to get to businesses easily. For instance, westbound interstate traffic will have an exit lane after crossing the bridge to allow them to get to Tejas Drive. State MHMR offices are on the street, along with Free State Winery. Orange Motorsports is also by the exit.

Trahan said locals began lobbying TxDOT officials after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. The record amount of rainfall flooded most of Orange County with feet of water. People living north of the interstate complained that their flooding was affected by the low access road bridges blocking the drainage.

"On a good day, the bayou is 12 to 14 inches below the bridges," Trahan said.

When it rains, the bridges often flood, causing TxDOT to put up traffic barriers to get people to stop. A few years ago, a school bus with young students flooded out on one of the low bridges and rescue crews had to get the students out to high ground.

The interstate was built in the late 1950s and opened about 1960 through Orange County. The access roads did not originally have the low bridges. Eastbound travelers on the access road had to either get onto the main interstate or use a turn-around under the main bridge and then travel eastbound. That system will soon be reinstituted.

Local officials in the 1960s wanted the access roads to go across Adams Bayou, and the low bridges, which are much cheaper and easier to build than elevated bridges, were added in the mid-1970s. It wasn't long, though, before some land developers north of the interstate, where the city was growing, to begin complaining that the bridges were hindering drainage flow southward down Adams Bayou.

The problem grew until Harvey's flood brought the problem to the forefront. Tommy Clary, who has lived many years on acreage north of the bridges, was one of the citizens leading the movement to remove the bridges.

Commissioner Trahan said when they first made the request to remove the bridges, TxDOT rejected the idea. Locals continued their efforts and became successful. However, some people didn't like the delays.

But their day has come.

 

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