Union Pacific Railroad Bridge

New Union Pacific Railroad Bridge over San Jacinto Will Have Wider Spans

Many readers have asked what the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) is doing to its bridge over the San Jacinto near US59. According to the Houston Chronicle, UP is widening the spans to reduce the potential for catastrophic damage in the event of another storm like Harvey.

If you have children or grandchildren that love trains, cranes and building things, you’ll want to share this post with them. It’s a real life example of a massive (re)construction project in the middle of difficult circumstances and a testament to the kind of brainpower and brawn that built this country.

A New Bridge Rises from the Old

These photos taken on Monday of this week (11.4.2019) illustrate how a new Union Pacific bridge is rising in the same place as the old one. With wider spans, the bridge will now also require different construction.

Wider concrete supports and a steel bed will replace the old tubular supports. UP constructed a temporary bridge next to the new bridge to hold the construction cranes.
This wide shot taken on 11/4/2019 shows how much wider the new spans are compared to the old.

Problems with Old Union Pacific Bridge

Back in 2017, the supports of the old bridge caught many trees swept downstream by Harvey. As you can see in these photos, the old bridge had two or three times the number of supports. David Seitzinger, a Kingwood resident, identified the supports and the trees they caught as a contributor to flooding in this analysis of water levels, flows and timing during Hurricane Harvey.

Photo from September 14, 2017. Harvey knocked out the old bridge. It took weeks to repair and shut down northbound rail traffic.
During Harvey, those old supports caught debris floating downstream that partially dammed the river and destroyed the railroad. Photo from UP report on flood.

A Marvel of Engineering Ingenuity

Current photo shows how the narrow spacing of supports for the temporary bridge are still catching debris floating downstream.
When complete, the bridge will border Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park (lower right).
The wider spans should help protect the commercial areas south of the river from flooding.

This presentation explains the importance of railroads to the region’s economy and damage that Harvey did to UP.

The progress of this construction is another encouraging sign of recovery from Harvey.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/6/2019 with thanks to the Union Pacific Railroad

799 Days after Hurricane Harvey