By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
IF YOU HAD to pick a part of the massive I-45 widening project underway in Huntsville that has wreaked havoc on local drivers, it probably would be the loss of what was called the Goree Bridge.
That bridge spanned I-45 east-to-west from the Goree Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to the north-south access road on the west side of the freeway.
That bridge was used several times daily by the 1,200-plus families in the Elkins Lake area, folks using Veterans Memorial, Goree employees and others on the east side who crossed to get to the south-bound exit ramp to 45.
Since it was taken down those drivers have had to go either to Montgomery Road or down to Park Road 40, or for most in Elkins Lake, the back exit to Veterans. One frustrated Elkins resident channeled Joni Mitchell at one point – “you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”
Chat pages, Facebook and emails have been flying about when the bridge will be replaced, what it will look like and when it will happen. A lot of false speculation has been floated.
Here is our best take on it based on discussions with Texas Department of Transportation engineers.
- Work on the new bridge will begin this Fall and should end in Spring of 2019.
- The new bridge will begin on the east side of I-45 exactly where it was before, about 150 yards south of what is now the Smiley’s gas station and convenience store. Where before it went straight across I-45 the new bridge will angle northwest to form a true four-way intersection with the access road and Veterans Memorial.
- The new bridge will be wider with turn lanes.
THE BRIDGE I not only thing being replaced and upgraded in the Goree area.
The old northbound exit ramp is being replaced and relocated further south. The exit will begin off 45 near the Sam Houston Statue. It will be a longer, more gradual exit and will bend into a T-intersection with 45. However, even though it is a T and not an acute merge, engineers say the exiting traffic will have the right-of-way.
This means north- and south-bound traffic on Route 75 will have to yield. On at least one chat site that location has been questioned because of an incline coming north from the Sam Houston Statue Visitor Center. Is there enough line of sight from that direction? The question also was raised about whether stop signs (used for 75 traffic at the old exit further north) would be safer.
“We will be constantly monitoring it,” a TXDOT spokesperson told WCNT.
Advantages of the new location and formation would be that drivers exiting 45 will be able to make a right turn south to get to the Visitor Center. And, while there may be an issue with line of sight coming north on 75, overall visibility will be improved over the acute angle merge that was in place before.
On the other side of the highway the southbound exit off the access road will be relocated closer to the old site of the Goree Bridge intersection and it will be extended for a more gradual merge.
The access road from the Veterans intersection south will remain as a two-way road.
Next: Part 4: Highway 19 Area