Tag Archive for: railroad

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

Another Treeless MoCo Development: 83 Acres of Idyllic Floodplains, Floodway and Wetlands Sandwiched between Railroad Tracks and a Sewage Treatment Plant

Where once 83 acres of dense trees, natural wetlands, flood plains, and floodways stood, now we have a massive gash in the landscape. Below: several pictures of the new MoCo development called Brooklyn Trails, all taken on 12/27/2019.

The grand entrance to Brooklyn Trails lies next the railroad tracks that parallel Loop 494.
Contractors moving dirt to fill in the low spots. Note the elevation difference between the road and the land to the right.
Those damp spots are the remnants of wetlands.
The almost lunar landscape of Brooklyn Trails. None of this dirt work was visible in an aerial photo taken on 9/21/2019. See last photo below.

Before Clearcutting

Note how dense the forests were on this property before the developer cleared them in 2018. This map also shows the extent of floodplains and floodways wrapping around the property.

Cross-hatched area = floodway of Bens Branch Tributary #1. Aqua = 1% annual chance floodplain. Brown = .02% annual chance floodplain. Tributary #2 of Bens Branch is shown at far left. Source: FEMA Flood Hazard Layer Viewer.

Another View of the Floodplains

This shows the proximity to two unnamed tributaries of Bens Branch.

Brooklyn Trails lies inside the U formed by Ben’s Branch Tributaries #1 and #2, approximately where the letter C is and to its right.

Sandwiched Between Railroad Tracks and a Sewage Plant

Downstream areas experienced increased flooding this year after clearcutting.

Brooklyn LTD clearcut this land in 2018. Was there a link to the unusual downstream flooding on Bens Branch experienced in 2019?

2/23/2019 satellite image from Google Earth

Riddled with Wetlands

From the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Inventory of Wetlands.

Replaced with High-Density Development

Despite all the pictures, maps and overlays, you still only have half the picture. Here’s what the developer intends to do with Section One of the property, the northern part above the bisecting road.

They intend to put 207 single-family residential homes on roughly 40 acres, along with streets with lofty names, such as Porter Mountain Drive and Cascade Mountain Drive.

A retention pond will go in the floodplain and, it appears, the floodway on the southern section of land. Plans for the rest of the southern section have not yet been released.

First half of section one. Extention in next image below lines up along the “matchline” indicated at right.
Second half of section one. Again, it lines up with matchline for first diagram. A neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous says work on the detention pond was not finished as of early December of 2019, about a year after land was first cleared.

Convoluted Trail of Ownership

Three partners formed Brooklyn Trails, LTD in the months following Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Secretary of State shows it to be one of almost two dozen real estate ventures owned by a company called Camcorp Management Inc.

The name Jenni Trapolino at 10410 Windermere Lakes Blvd. Houston, TX 77065 USA, appears as president, Vice President, registered agent, assistant manager, member, director or general partner of 23 of those. One is Benchmark Acquisitions, the company that bought the land from Hendricks and then resold it to Brooklyn Trails.

The names Mark Tolleffsrud and Scott Bauer show as other VPs of Campcorp Management at the same address. However, neither of those names is affiliated with any other business entities in Texas, according to the Texas SOS Direct database.

Ms. Trapolino must be quite the real-estate mogul, even though she reportedly is trying to retire. Searching on variations of her name yields additional companies and partnerships. Under Jennie or Jennie R Trapolino, Texas SoS Direct shows 29 related entities. Her name also shows up as VP of land acquisition for Legend Homes and Academy Development. Legend Homes has the same corporate address as most of Ms. Trapolino’s other interests on Windermere Lakes.

Interesting Timing: One Week After Harvey

Interesting that Benchmark Acquisitions bought the property from Hendricks less than a week after Harvey.

Two weeks later, Jennie Trapolino filed a certificate of formation for the Brooklyn Trails limited partnership, listing Lauren C. Sullivan, the President of Legend Homes as the registered agent.

Were they looking to pick up a bargain on flooded property? If so…

Price Per Acre Five Times Higher than Woodridge

Compared to the nearby Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village property, Brooklyn Trails overpaid. Perry paid roughly a million dollars for 268 acres. That’s roughly $3,731 per acre.

Assuming the MCAD market value shown above reflects the purchase price, Trapolino paid $19,771 per acre.

That’s 5X more! Granted you’re closer to US59. But you still have to contend with floodways, floodplains, railroad horns, a sewage treatment plant, and homes built over soggy wetlands. Hope springs eternal. I guess if you’re in the development business, pessimism just isn’t in your gene pool.

Timing of Detention Vs. Flooding

In Woodridge Village, Perry Homes clearcut the entire site before starting excavation work on development. That proved to be a costly miscalculation when Elm Grove Flooded twice this year.

Likewise, Brooklyn Trails clearcut this property in 2018, but only recently started dirt work. A neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous shared pictures showing that the detention pond still was not complete a year later. Could there be a relationship between that and downstream flooding along Northpark Drive and Ben’s Branch in May and September? The photo below was taken AFTER Imelda.

Clearcutting all the land before installing detention may have contributed to flooding in both locations. This is a practice that Montgomery County should prohibit.

Traces of wetlands still remained on Brooklyn Trails Section One as of 9/21/2019 when I took this aerial photo.

There’s much more to talk about with this development. For instance, as with Woodridge Village, Brooklyn Trails appeared to be playing a game of beat the clock. By filing for permits when they did, they ensured that the detention pond did not have to comply with the new NOAA Atlas 14 rainfall norms. And as with Woodridge Village, that means any detention built here will fall 40% short of the real need. That’s something else MoCo should prohibit. It’s like licensing planes that you know will crash.

Stay tuned in coming weeks for more on Brooklyn Trails.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/28/2019

851 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 100 after Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

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