Environmental review out for proposed TX bridge

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Associated Press

Posted on January 5, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Updated Sunday, Jan 5 at 11:32 AM

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A public hearing will be held in February on an environmental impact statement in a plan to replace Corpus Christi's Harbor Bridge with a higher span to accommodate bigger cargo vessels and even cruise ships.

Details on the U.S. Highway 181 option, preferred by state transportation officials, were made public Friday. State engineers have said the city needs a larger, more salt-resistant span. Replacement costs could reach $679 million.

The project would essentially turn the highway, which includes the current bridge, into an extension of the current Crosstown Expressway, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (http://bit.ly/19HE0SW ) reported. Clearance would be raised from 138 feet to 205 feet to help attract larger vessels after expansion of the Panama Canal.

The main span of the new bridge would be more than a quarter-mile long, or double the length of the old main span. The proposed bridge would be built over the ship channel about 1,000 feet west of the existing bridge. The whole project area, including the bridge approaches and interchanges, spans about 6 miles, the newspaper reported.

The measure would require the state to purchase 50 acres, including about 40 homes and apartments, along with several businesses. The route, like the other three that were under consideration, would affect the city's only historically black neighborhoods, an area with a high concentration of low-income households.

Federal law requires project planners to minimize harm to minority areas.

Susie Canales, an environmental advocate for housing areas around nearby refineries, said the highway project serves only to underscore air quality problems and gives her group, Citizens for Environmental Justice, more cause to call for mass buyouts of potentially affected homes.

They are "already overburdened by the regular assault of everyday living" from fumes, chemical releases and soil contamination, she said.

Federal approval is still needed to replace the Harbor Bridge, completed in 1959.

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Online:

http://ccharborbridgeproject.com/

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Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com

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