Tag Archive for: railroad bridge

New UP Railroad Bridge Over West Fork Complete

Union Pacific (UP) has completed the new railroad bridge over the San Jacinto West Fork near US59. During Harvey, the narrow supports of the old bridge caught many trees swept downstream by the flood. The new bridge, two years in the making, has wider supports designed to let trees pass through in the next flood.

History of Project

Shortly after Harvey, UP repaired the old bridge to facilitate northbound rail traffic out of Houston. Then the company started building a new bridge – between and over the supports of the old one. The effort was a marvel of American ingenuity. The new bridge also contains U-shaped spans designed to support the weight of heavy trains over the wider supports.

This afternoon, crews were dismantling the last of the massive cranes used to erect the new bridge.

One Less Contributor to Flooding to Worry About

This is yet another piece of the puzzle designed to reduce flooding in the Humble-Kingwood area. No one can say for sure, how much the logjam created by the old bridge contributed to flooding during Harvey. One thing is certain, however. That’s one less thing to worry about in the future.

Trees caught in the supports of the old pedestrian bridge over 59 and the railroad bridge during Harvey.
Harvey knocked out part of the bridge. Photo taken in March 2018. Note how close the supports are on the far side of the bridge.

One Month Ago

Compare the width of these supports. Photo taken 2 years later in March 2020.

Photos of Completed Bridge

Here’s how the sleek new bridge looked from downstream today. Photo looking west toward 59 behind the railroad bridge.
Another shot from the opposite direction taken today. Looking east from under the US59 bridge. Hopefully no trees will get caught between these supports.

Dismantling Construction Crane

All around the job site on the south shore of the West Fork at 59, crews today could be seen demobilizing. It took one large crane to dismantle another.

Dismantling the large crane used in construction (see three photos above). Shot taken today, 4/13/2020.

This will help reduce flooding. It should also make boating far more pleasurable through this area.

Congratulations and thanks to the hard-working people of the Union Pacific railroad.

Next Up: Edgewater Park

Bridge construction had delayed development of Harris County Precinct 4’s new Edgewater Park immediately to the west. Let’s hope that can now get underway soon.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/13/2020

958 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Help Wanted: Can You Explain This Strange Splashing in Water Near RR Bridge Repairs?

On March 6, I flew over the Union Pacific bridge repairs near 59 and the West Fork and noticed some splashing I could not explain. I’ve been on a fruitless search for answers ever since. So now I’m enlisting your help. But first a quick update on the status of repairs.

Update on Repairs

Not much had visibly changed since the previous month on February 23rd. I observed that:

  • The north side of the river looked considerably cleaner.
  • Virtually all supports for the north side of the temporary bridge had been removed.
  • Virtually all of the old supports between the new supports for the main bridge were gone.
  • The big red crane was starting to retreat back to the southern side of the river.
  • Some sort of underwater cutting torch operation was in progress.
  • Pontoon-based lifting equipment was retrieving cut pipe and old cement from the river bottom.
Incremental changes since Feb. 23 flyover. This and all photos below taken March 6.

Enlargement Reveals Splashing

However, when I downloaded the images at home and reviewed them on a big screen, I saw something I could not explain. I saw a giant splash in the water under the bridge that went up at least 10 feet. At first I thought something fell from the bridge. But there was nothing on the bridge as you can see above.

Strange splash in water near old support. Caught at 1/8000th of a second from a helicopter 250 feet away.

Further review of the images reveal tanks of industrial gas, likely used for underwater cutting torches.

Tanks of what might have been acetylene for underwater torches.

Then I noticed the same splash in the same place in dozens of other images as the helicopter circled around the bridge.

Similar splash in same spot several seconds later from different camera position. Also at 1/8000th of a second.

Something falling could have created the splash in one frame. But not multiple frames. Especially since I was shooting at 1/8000th of a second to minimize vibration from the helicopter.

Shot from other side of bridge about 30 seconds later.

The series of shots shows continuous splashing in a virtually identical pattern.

26 Frames Taken 3 Seconds Apart Show Similar Splash

It took almost a minute and a half to circle the operation. During that time, I took 26 shots. Each shot shows water “erupting” in the same place, the same pattern, and to roughly the same height. All while workers sat by unconcerned!

So this was a normal part of the operation. But what caused it? I’m not familiar with underwater cutting. However, I’m guessing, with all the offshore experts in Houston, someone can explain it.

Photo of same site when workers no present by Mike Combat Wilcox.

Mike Combat Wilcox sent me this image from his boat when workers were not present. No workers. No splash. Hmmmm. The mystery deepens.

Two Ways to Help

A hearty corona-virus-free handshake through social media to anyone who has the answer. I will publish it…with a credit if you can explain it.

And let’s have some fun while we’re at it. We need more of that these days.

I’ll also publish a separate list of “creative” answers from the clueless (like me). Try to make people laugh with those. For instance, were the splashes actually “oil company stocks taking a nosedive during corona week”? You get the idea. Have fun people! If you can. I know its painful.

On a More Serious Note

Here’s another wide shot that shows the progress of bridge re-construction. Remember, the goal: widen supports so trees don’t get caught in them during the next flood.

But widening supports requires removing the old ones. Piece by piece. That’s where the cutting and pulling comes in.

If you have possible explanations (real or humorous), please reply through the contact page on ReduceFlooding.com.

Posted by Bob Rehak with image from Mike Combat Wilcox on 3/18/2020

932 Days after Hurricane Harvey

Union Pacific Almost Done Removing Last Remnants of Old Railroad Bridge

Replacement of the old Union Pacific Bridge across the San Jacinto West Fork is nearing completion.

Less than a month ago, crews constructing the new railroad bridge still had to remove the supports for the old bridge. See below the old four-post steel-frame structures between the new cement supports.

Photo taken on January 20, 2020 shows old supports still in place between new concrete supports.

By 2/13/2020, however, only one of the old supports remained. See photo below.

Photo taken on 2/13/2020 shows only one of the old supports remains.

Reason for New Bridge

Union Pacific started reconstructing the bridge after Harvey. Trees swept downstream by the flood caught on the old supports and backed water up.

Trees caught in Union Pacific Railroad Bridge supports during Hurricane Harvey.

The result: the tracks were destroyed. UP had to reroute northbound rail traffic out of Houston for months as they literally built a new bridge around the old one.

Harvey knocked out the Union Pacific Railroad bridge over the San Jacinto River near I-69.

The concrete supports for the new bridge are spaced much farther apart. Thus, they should allow trees to pass through in a flood and eliminate backwater effects.

Photo taken 2/13/2020, the same time as the first shot above. This is from the other side of the bridge.

Other Sign Job is Nearing Completion

Notice in the picture above that crews have already started removing the temporary bridge for cranes on the north side of the river.

All of this is good news from flood remediation and mitigation perspectives. It is yet one more sign that life is finally starting to return to normal after Harvey. The bridge should also help the community deal better with the next major storm.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/17/2020

902 Days since Hurricane Harvey