With weather forecasters such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center predicting above-normal activity for this year’s hurricane season, hurricane preparedness becomes yet another concern for communities already reeling from an atypically tumultuous year of crises and unrest.
Project Brays hopes to assuage some of those concerns via significant flood reduction measures along Brays Bayou in Harris County. It is a series of projects, totaling $480M, that aim to reduce the number of structures at risk for flood damage from 16,800 to 1,800 in the event of a 100-year flood. According to the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), Project Brays is a “cooperative effort between HCFCD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that includes the widening of 21 miles of Brays Bayou in 13 separate channel modification project segments, the modification of 32 bridges, and the construction of four stormwater detention basins with a combined capacity of 3.5 billion gallons.”
One such project is the replacement of the Ardmore Street Bridge, in south central Harris County, with a new higher, longer, and wider bridge that will increase the flow of stormwater beneath it and significantly reduce the chance of flooding in surrounding neighborhoods. Aguirre & Fields provided construction engineering inspection services for the rebuild.
“Though it was an older bridge, the real problem had less to do with the bridge itself, and more to do with the channel underneath it,” explains Aguirre & Fields Construction Inspector and Assistant Project Manager Richard Birdwell, EIT.
“The existing bridge sat much lower than the new one, which meant there was a lot of channel blockage during floods. By raising the bridge, we’ve increased the amount of water that can flow beneath it. The new bridge will also improve traffic and pedestrian mobility, with the inclusion of a turn lane and expanded sidewalks, neither of which was there before.”
At a recent ribbon-cutting event for the Greenbriar Drive bridge, another Project Brays replacement build, HCFCD Deputy Executive Director Matthew Zeve expanded upon the benefits of raising bridges along the bayou.
“When we have a flood event and the bayou’s full of water, the water can flow underneath it instead of hitting the sides of the bridge and backing up into the surrounding areas,” said Zeve.
Birdwell certainly understands and appreciates the benefits of the Ardmore Bridge rebuild, but he also recognizes the impact construction has had on the surrounding communities.
“We need to keep the project moving,” says Birdwell. “Many people in these neighborhoods are ready for the construction and detours to finish. In addition to everything else currently going on, they are ready to return to their daily routine. It’s important now, more than ever, to give people something that resembles a return to normalcy.”
It’s a sentiment that Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis echoed at the Greenbriar Drive bridge ribbon-cutting ceremony as he applauded the progress of HCFCD and Project Brays.
“These are meaningful, long overdue improvements that will hopefully give families some of the support that they need,” said Ellis.
Click here to view more construction photos of the Ardmore St. bridge rebuild.