Critical Pieces of Union Pacific Bridge over West Fork Now in Place

The Union Pacific Railroad has removed two of the five large cranes used for the reconstruction of its bridge over the West Fork of the San Jacinto. During Harvey, floodwaters damaged the bridge. The narrow supports caught floating trees that dammed the river and backed water up, making the flood worse. The new bridge will have much wider supports that allow trees to pass through. But the wider supports also require U-shaped steel trusses that help bear the weight of crossing trains.

Where Union Pacific Project Stood in November

Here’s how the project looked in early November. Note the giant cranes poised to lift the steel supports into place.

Union Pacific Railroad Bridge
Union Pacific Railroad Bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork. Photo taken on November 4.

December Status of UP Project

Here’s how it looked on December 3rd. The first thing you notice is that all of the steel trusses are now in place and that two of the largest cranes have been removed.

Looking southeast toward the east side of the UP bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork. Note all of the old bridge supports still in place between the new ones.
Looking south, you can see that a steel truss system now completely spans the river. The steel truss system supports the extra stress created by the wider concrete supports.
Eight new concrete supports now replace the dozens of steel posts that it once took to bridge the width of the San Jacinto.
The wider supports will allow trees to flow through the bridge in future storms. During Harvey, uprooted trees formed a dam at the base of the bridge that backed water up.

Still Remaining: Removal of Old Supports

It now appears that workers are starting to remove some of the old supports between the new ones. From US59 today, I noticed that the supports are no longer even touching the bottom of the bridge. It may not be long before UP wraps this project up.

That will eliminate one more barrier that has slowed the progress of Harris County’s new Edgewater Park near this same location. In lake 2018, the county hoped to begin construction by the fall of 2019. Construction, changing plans, and coordination with the Houston Parks Board have all contributed to delays on the project.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/10/2019

833 Days after Hurricane Harvey