NO. 2 ROAD: No challenge too much

Despite the intervention of Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s SH 288 project has come through

Brian W. Budzynski / October 04, 2018
SH 288 Toll Lanes Project

No road project comes down to statistics alone—though when you have a project as massive and challenging as our No. 2 road project of 2018, you might be forgiven a mea culpa for thinking so.

The $850 million SH 288 Toll Lanes project in Houston, Texas, consists of the expansion and rehabilitation of 10.3 miles of SH 288 from U.S. 59 to the Harris County line. New interchanges were set at BW8 and IH 610; the project design included 40 new bridges and the rehab of 13 more, totaling 1.8 million sq ft of deck and 412 spans; 25,000 linear ft of retaining wall was employed; 33 utilities were relocated, including waterlines, sewer, electric, gas and comms; and 1.8 million sq ft of detention ponds were designed to offset over 100 acres of added pavement as the water discharge rate could be increased.

As Houston is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S., this project was seen by all vested parties as one where everyone involved would see immediate benefits.

“This project will improve accessibility and the health of the transportation network in Houston,” Susan Walter, project design manager for Stantec, told Roads & Bridges.

This particular stretch of highway connects directly to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the nation. The project was constructed almost entirely within the existing right-of-way, meaning it required only minimal ROW acquisition, shaving crucial cost and time off a grueling schedule that also had to contend with Hurricane Harvey, which wracked the region, covering some sections of highway with as much as 10 ft of water.

“I remember watching the low pressure forming,” Walter recalled. “I’m from the East Coast, and it takes days for a hurricane to make it from Florida to the New York tristate area, but this thing formed like crazy. Yet, as quickly as it rose, it dissipated, which was the good and bad news, I guess, of living near the gulf. The design was thus not impacted. From the construction site POV, the contractor did an excellent job of securing the site, but we also got a little bit lucky in that the waters went down like they did.”

With work slated to button up next year, the SH 288 Toll Project is already showing signs of commercial and ecologic benefit to the area.

“Detention ponds and drainage design of the roadway were a huge concern for us, even before Harvey was on the scene,” Walter said. “The model we built to anticipate the additional runoff from the new pavement was really comprehensive. A lot of prelim design time was spent to accommodate detention ponds and how their construction would be staged. A lot of the sequencing was addressed early on. It’s been a big driver on the project.”

Project: SH 288 Toll Lanes Project

Location: Houston, Texas

Owner: Texas Department of Transportation

Designer: Stantec

Contractors: Almeda-Genoa Constructors­—a J.V. of Dragados USA, Pulice Construction and Shikun & Binui America

Developer: Blueridge Transportation Group LLC

Cost: $850 million

Length: 10.3 miles (41.2 lane-miles)

Completion Date: Q3 2019

About the Author

Budzynski is managing editor of Roads & Bridges.

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