KEMAH — The four-lane bridge between Kemah and Seabrook may be in line for a $150 million expansion.
The Texas Department of Transportation is in the early stages of a plan to not only widen the existing State Highway 146 bridge that runs from Kemah to Seabrook, but to also build a separate elevated express lane.
“Construction could begin as early as 2017,” said Danny Perez, a spokesperson for the department.
The proposed elevated express lane would extend from north of NASA Road 1, over Clear Lake, to south of FM 518, Perez said.
“The elevated express lane would resemble what you would see along the Westpark Tollway in Houston,” Perez said. “However, this facility will not be tolled.”
The project is expected to cost roughly $150 million just for construction, he said. The project is still in its design phase, which needs to be completed before the department moves on to acquiring more right-of-way for the expanded bridge, he said.
“What we’re hoping to do is get through traffic to take the high road to go over us and Seabrook and then local traffic would stay down below,” said Kemah Mayor Bob Cummins.
Highway 146 is the main thoroughfare through the small town that swells with visitors during tourist season. Traffic congestion has been a problem the city has been attempting to deal with for years.
Last time a plan to expand the bridge was brought up was about two decades ago, Cummins said.
The plan went nowhere then, but this time things have moved quickly with the help of neighboring municipalities as well as county and state officials, he said.
Traffic congestion in Kemah can back up traffic in other neighboring Clear Lake cities, Cummins said.
“The whole area benefits if we are able to move things in,” he said.
Kemah City Manager Rick Beverlin said Kemah and Seabrook officials are still working closely with the transportation department on the design of the bridge, and there are still details to be worked out.
“This is what going to affect not just us but everyone for the 40, 50 years,” Beverlin said. “So we got to do it right.”