Summer construction to cause traffic delays
Two projects will force officials to close certain ramps at various times, said Howard Gillespie, the Port Aransas ferry operations manager.
Money issues are at the root of why the work will be done during the busy summer season, Gillespie said.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which operates the ferry system, put in its budget request for money for the projects in February 2009, but it wasn’t until January this year that the state’s Legislative Budget Board allowed TxDOT to transfer money for the projects to ferry operations coffers, Gillespie said. The board also has called on TxDOT to have the work done by Aug. 31, so that meant TxDOT couldn’t hold off until winter, he said.
There wasn’t time to get the work done before summer because it takes time to go through the process of getting contractors in place before actual construction, Gillespie said. That includes drafting contracts, soliciting and awarding bids, ordering materials, mobilizing resources and building certain structures ahead of time, for later installation at the landings, he said.
Interviewed on Tuesday, May 11, Gillespie said he didn’t know yet how long construction delays will be for motorists, because he hadn’t yet met with representatives of both of the contractors that will be doing the work.
The summertime work is not expected to take place on weekends or holidays, to avoid making delays worse, Gillespie said.
Gillespie will make a public presentation on the projects at a city council meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 20. The presentation is one of a number of items on the council’s agenda for the meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at council chambers, 710 W. Avenue A.
In one project, workers will replace the landing “fenders” – the large walls that the ferries wedge themselves between at the landings. The project also will involve replacing clusters of pilings – known as “dolphins” to ferry officials – that stand in the waters near the landings.
The clusters help guide ferries into position at the landings. Ferries also can be tied up to them. Creosote pilings are being replaced with poles made of environmentally friendly composite materials that “never wear out,” Gillespie said.
This is the second year of a six-year project to replace the dolphins and fenders. The work this year will be done at a cost of about $3 million.
The project will begin June 15 and last for 100 working days – about four months, Gillespie said. The contractor is Russell Marine.
The other project will involve concrete repairs under bulkheads on the Mustang Island side of the ferry landings, Gillespie said. Saltwater intrusion is undermining the bulkheads, he said.
The work will mean excavating behind the bulkhead to replace old, degraded concrete. The $309,409 project will be undertaken by MMR Contractors.
Five of the system’s six ferries were operating as of May 11. The R.E. Stotzer was at a shipyard, undergoing an overhaul that is routine for the ferries, Gillespie said, adding that he expects the vessel to be back by Memorial Day.
Gillepsie said he expects all of the ferries to be operating this summer.
A new, 28-car ferry is scheduled to be delivered to Port Aransas Sept. 16 and go into operation within a few weeks after that, after crews have been trained, Gillespie said.
A second new ferry the same size is scheduled to arrive in May next year, he said.
Each of the current ferries carries 20 cars.