Chambers County Residents look at I-10 Proposals, asked to comment

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

The Texas Department of Transportation hosted a public meeting at the North Channel Library last week for the I-10 East Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study, an early step in the development of transportation for the east side of I-10 stretching from I-69 in downtown to SH-99 or the Grand Parkway in Chambers County. The 30-mile corridor connects with four major regional roadways including I-69, Loop 610, Beltway 8, and Spur 330. Contributing to much of the heavy truck traffic is the Port of Houston with their constant flow of freight.

TxDOT officials say they’re considering a project along that corridor.

“We’re looking at studies and what it could possibly look like,” said TxDOT spokesperson Bambi Hall.

“We’ve developed the universal alternatives, meaning all the scenarios that could possibly happen in construction. It will be a lot of money. We must get through this particular part of the process before we’re able to identify funding for the project,” she said.

Work on the project isn’t new. It began in 2017 with stakeholder and public meetings until it was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was placed on hold for three years allowing TxDOT to focus on projects already funded for construction.

“When it comes to the planning and environmental linkages process, we have to get a full picture of what all of the projects could entail. That includes what congestion may look like, to address reliability, and address crash rates,” Hall said.

TxDOT is projecting traffic volumes along I-10 East to increase by an average of 68 percent by 2045. Eastsiders are already feeling some of that increase with the increased development in Channelview, Baytown, and Mont Belvieu. According to 2022 TxDOT numbers, Segment 1 currently boasts 159,000 vehicles per day and is expected to rise to 265,000 by 2045. In Segment 3, where most of it is near Channelview and the Beltway, the current 112,000 will nearly double to 216,000 in the same time period.

Bryce Pate, an engineer and consultant with Reynolds, Smith, and Hills engineering firm is conducting the study.

“This project will likely be broken up into five segments. Each segment has different characteristics, so we have to find out which segment needs what done to it,” he said.

Stephen Gage, project manager with TxDOT, said at this point this was a high level of study where you’re looking at concepts and ideas and then those concepts can get flushed out in actual projects.

“Then those projects will be put in the pipeline to get funded.”

He pointed out that the bridge at the San Jacinto River is a separate project that will be addressed sooner than later.

Brian from Sheldon was curious when he saw a flyer and attended the meeting.

“It’s interesting to see what they want to do to the roadway,” he said. “I came because I wanted to see what exactly was going on.”

He said he came with no agenda other than to give his feedback.

“This is one of those times when customers who use the freeway get to share their feedback. For me, the biggest bottleneck I endure is the San Jacinto River bridge,” he said.

He said he hoped they would widen the freeway there and make a higher bridge to accommodate boat and barge traffic.

From Anahuac to Baytown across the San Jacinto River into Channelview and into downtown, Market Street was the main spur for farmers to transport their crops into the downtown Market Street Square to sell their products. But in 1957, that dynamic changed with the construction of Interstate 10.

For Galena Park ISD, it also became the dividing line for a new North Shore High School constructed in 1962 with students in grades 10-11 the first year. Ninth graders were still a part of the junior high school at that time.

The new construction brought with it tremendous development along the I-10 corridor and some 65 years later, the aging interstate needs a makeover to handle the current congestion and the coming increase with the development of the northeast quadrant of the county.

While this round of public meetings is done, there is still time to watch the presentation and comment.

To still comment, Google the I-10 PEL Study. Hall encouraged residents to watch the virtual meeting online to see for themselves what was presented at the in-person meetings.

“They can go to http://www.txdot.gov and look under projects. There they’ll see a listing and can scroll for the item or type it into the search box,” she said.

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