Photo: Adams Bayou at Interstate 10 contains 43 exposed pilings supporting four bridges and a pipeline, says North Orange homeowner Tom Clary. He believes the pilings caused snags that caused flooded he and his neighbors during Tropical Storm Harvey. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Flooding and turnarounds.

Photo: The schematic for the alternate plan for the widening of I-10 to three lanes between MLK Drive and the state line, above, includes red to show the elimination of the Adams Bayou turnarounds and yellow to show location of new entrance and exit ramps.  

Those were the key interests of people attending last Thursday’s public meeting put on by the Texas Department of Transportation to visit about the widening of Interstate 10 from MLK Drive to the Sabine River.

Sarah Dupre, information officer for TxDOT, said the $47 million widening project is scheduled to be awarded in 2020 and could begin construction before the completion of an ongoing reconstruction project of the bridge at I-10 and 16th Street.

TxDOT’s widening plans include a turnaround on the west side of the bridge at I-10 and 16th Street, so people living south of the interstate no longer have to go through the red light at that intersection to reach Meeks Drive and beyond.

The project would also include a new eastbound entrance ramp to I-10 and a new westbound exit ramp, both at 27th Street.

An alternate version favored by those who feel that the Adams Bayou bridges caused flooding north of the interstate eliminates the low-lying and flood-prone access road bridges and turnarounds at I-10 and Adams Bayou.

Instead, it takes the one-lane service roads up and over the higher existing I-10 bridges and the expanded third lanes of east- and westbound highway traffic.

The downside is losing the turnaround and the service roads between Woodlark and 27th Street. And while eliminating the lower bridges should clean up some pilings, the plan to expand the higher bridge would include more pilings.
“I like the alternate plan,” said Bob Baptista, who along with another north Orange resident, Tom Clary, has compiled an impressive amount of video and written exhibits to support the idea that the low service road bridges and the 43 pilings from the current six lanes of traffic and a pipeline are causing water flow to back up north of I-10.

“The bridges and turnarounds are too low,” Baptista said. “They should be moved. It’s gratifying to see an alternate plan being considered. I think they [TxDOT] are coming aboard after a lengthy debate.”

Clary and Baptista have convinced numerous city and county officials, both elected and hired department heads, of the need to replace all the current bridges over Adams Bayou with one like that over Cow Bayou.

That bridge, built 10 years ago, has no pilings in the water.

But some of the 90-odd residents that joined the 15 or so local government officials for the show-and-tell at West Orange-Stark Elementary were upset about possibly losing the turnarounds.

“The alternate plan is not inconvenient at all,” Baptise argued. “If it is, it’s only two or three minutes at most. And that still leaves three turnarounds between MLK and 16th Street.

“And we need those [higher] roads to evacuate. They couldn’t get out when Adams Bayou has flooded.”

Baptista said the project engineer, Adam Jack, told him that a hydraulic analysis of the Adams Bayou had not been completed.

Baptista took exception to a quote attributed to Dupre in another newspaper that a hydraulic analysis has already proved that the Adams Bayou bridges don’t cause flooding.

Hydraulic analyses are a prerequisite to building in and around rivers. Hydraulic models predict water pressures and identify bottlenecks.

“I think the bridges need to be gone,” Paul Burch, Orange councilman, said. “I think that’s what forced a lot of the flooding. The trash piles up on it.

“Dade or Nichols [State Rep. Dade Phelan, State Sen. Robert Nichols] needs to get us funds to do it like Cow Bayou.”

Tables with plans and information about the project wrapped around the perimeter of the WOSE cafeteria. More than a dozen TxDOT employees and consultants were available to answer questions.

“I think it was very streamlined, but they had very good visuals and ample staff,” Baptista said. “Both their consultants, HALFF & Associates, and TxDOT employees were in good positions to show people the plans.

“The accessibility of the TxDOT people to answer questions was very good.”

Each person, upon entering Thursday’s meeting, was provided with a one-page comment blank to make their concerns known.

“We want to know what people feel about this project,” Dupre said. “The people who live here, who work here, drive this area every day. We really do take those comments seriously.

“Right now, the schematic is definitely not final. We’re going to incorporate all that feedback into the project.

“We do plan on having another public hearing in the future. At that time, we should have some final schematics.”