Rebuilding the Iconic Harbor Bridge

If you’re a native South Texan, no doubt you are familiar with Corpus Christi’s big, beautiful, bridge.  The one that is sure to mesmerize and to some may even seem a little scary to cross.  You guessed it—the Harbor Bridge–the iconic roadway that is a distinct feature of the sparking city by the sea’s landscape is about to get a major upgrade.

The Harbor Bridge as we currently know it was built back in 1959 for a total cost of approximately $11 million dollars. It was considered the most important design work of Texas Highway Department Bridge Engineer Vigo Miller and was featured in Time magazine in 1964 for its exceptional beauty. No doubt our current bridge has served our community well, but increased safety concerns rooted in an aging infrastructure meant it was time to research a rebuild.

City and regional leaders have been working more than 15 years to pave the way for the construction of a replacement Harbor Bridge.  After an extensive Environmental Impact Study, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was granted approval from the Federal Highway Safety Administration to rebuild the current structure.  Now, here we are at the launch of one of the largest and most significant transportation projects in the region.

This summer, construction will commence on a new Harbor Bridge.  This new structure promises to be just as magnificent and beautiful as the beloved, current Harbor Bridge.  Making the most of the majestic views of the bay, the new bridge will be the longest, cable-stayed, concrete-segmental, bridge in North America.

The nearly $900 million project will include the development, design and construction of just over six miles of combined bridge and roadway.  It will include the new six-lane Harbor Bridge, as well as, the reconstruction of approximately 1.6 miles of IH-37 and approximately one mile of the Crosstown Expressway.  Once the new bridge is open to the traveling public, the project will conclude with the demolition of the existing Harbor Bridge.  The design/build firm, Flatiron/Dragados, LLC, who were chosen by TxDOT to complete construction, anticipate the project will take five years to complete.

The new bridge design incorporates a number of aesthetic features including shared-use paths, a community plaza, nighttime LED lighting and xeriscape landscaping. Designers are aiming for the new Harbor Bridge to be just as iconic as the original.  In order to get there, it’s anticipated that between 500 and 650 skilled workers will be needed to complete the job.  For more information on employment opportunities and general updates about the Harbor Bridge Project, please visit www.harborbridgeproject.com.

Paddle For Parkinson’s Sept. 3, 2016

We are thrilled to once again be a sponsor for the “Paddle for Parkinson’s – Catch the Cure” Races here on North Padre Island Saturday, September 3 2016.  This is our 3rd year sponsoring this event and it is sure to be a great day for all participants and attendees. Last year many of our realtors & family members placed either first or second in several events particularly in the “Kayak Competition”.  Come out for a great day and participate and give to such a great cause!

GO TO their website at www.CatchtheCure.org
 

North Padre Island Canal Construction Underway

KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

KIIITv has recently reported on all the dirt moving around on the east side of Park Road 22. If you live in the area you have no doubt noticed all the heavy equipment moving sand on the Gulf side of Park Road 22. It is all connected to the Riverwalk-style development that is soon to be going up there and the planned bridge over Park Road 22.  Lots of excitement Developing here on North Padre Island, as the “Upper Padre” Development project is well underway.

New Plans being Laid for Lake Padre Area

What do Bricktown, Oklahoma City and North Padre Island, Corpus Christi have in common? A water taxi system! Or at least, soon to be.

With Schlitterbahn, Harbor Marina, and Island Walk Village coming in phases to Padre Island, this picturesque canal system linking the island’s main attractions will bring new tourism and new life into the Island. Paul Schexnailder, a partner in the project, highlighted some of the main and most exciting aspects today at the State of the Islands talk, held at the Comfort Suites by San Jacinto Title Services.

CLICK ON PICTURE BELOW TO BLOW UP AND DOWNLOAD OR PRINT A COPY

Schlitterbahn, still set for a soft opening at the end of May, is part of Phase I. Although rain and labor has hurt the construction schedule, Jeff Henry, co-owner, has said this is the best park he has ever built. And we’re OK with that…good things come to those who wait! Here’s why!

The main clubhouse boosts four stories of fun.

  • 1st Floor: “Fajitas” restaurant and retail space
  • 2nd Floor: The floor for the locals – will have TVs, a lounge, a game room, and food and drinks
  • 3rd Floor: A 4500 square foot event center, equipped with 6 meeting rooms
  • 4th Floor: Fine dining open to the public, as well as  a private dining room for golf course and park members only
  • There will also be roughly 80 hotel rooms in the building 

To top it off? The clubhouse overlooks an Amphitheater that can hold approximately 2000 people. This was not in the original plans, but it sounds like the perfect place for some great island venues. You got fins to the left, fins to the right… 

Harbor Marina, set to be operating this time next year, will be instrumental in the “Water Taxi” System. Referring to the maps provided, Cruiser canal is being expanded to continue straight and curve to go toward the marina. See the arrows on the maps? That is where a new bridge is going to go (between Commodores and Whitecap). It will orchestrate boat and pedestrian traffic by 3 separate arches. The center arch will be for the boats, and the two arches on either side will be for pedestrians and golf carts. The canal archway will have a 13 foot clearance, whereas the two pedestrian archways will have a 10 foot clearance. The canals will be finished late 2015, early 2016, and the bridge has an end-of-the-year completion date. 

Island Walk Village is an Ingredient in Phase II. And yes, I am talking restaurants. It will be the site of at least 6 restaurants all up and down the newly dug canal system (will there be gondola rides in our future?). The structures will house the eateries on the main levels by the water, and then living spaces above that. Worried about parking? Don’t. The village has been drawn to have about 1400 parking spots.

..And even though gossip of a grocery store is spinning, those in “the know” are being understandably coy about the details. The good news is, there WILL be one!

This hardly touches the exciting developments the island will see over the next 5-10 years. The good news is that we have a built-in market here on our coast, and something tells me it won’t be “off the grid” much longer.

SCHLITTERBAHN DEVELOPER “Everything is on schedule for Spring 2014 opening!!

LATEST NEWS: The park developer and part-owner Jeff Henry says all is on schedule.  “Our concepts for the park haven’t changed much.  We are close to groundbreaking, and it always takes the lawyers and bankers twice as long to do their work as it takes for us to build it.  All the money is in place, financing for the project is completed and is ready to go.  The plans are done but will change right up to the time we start building.  Once ground is broken, we will be working straight through to completion.”

Jeff Henry also said his crews have begun to build the equipment at their construction yard at their New Braunfels headquarters; those include some of the castles and other custom equipment that his crews have also built for their other parks.  He also said his crews usually take two weeks off in December and equipment should begin arriving at the Island site around the end of December or early January.

The $41 million resort will be located on a 65-acre tract that is currently the site of Padre Isles Country Club on Padre Island.  While no new drawings of the park have been released in almost a year, the concepts haven’t changed much.  You can see the plans on the website:  FREE SCHLITTERBAHN MAP

With the $177 million Incentive Agreement with the city of Corpus Christi, Phase I of the park must be finished by summer 2013.  The water park is part of a proposed $552 million master plan for Padre Island, which investors Willard Hammonds, Paul Schexnailder and the Henry family (owners of Schlitterbahn) are developing.

They are shooting for an opening by Spring Break 2014 but it will probably be May 2014 before it actually opens – but no later than the summer of 2014.  They won’t move any dirt until everything is ready, all the way around, and then they will hit the ground running.

Phase I of the build out will include the water park and about 20 or so overnight stay rooms.  “After that we will build out as the market allows,” Jeff Henry says.  “We will get the park open and then expand as the market stabilizes.  Once that happens we will go to Phase II immediately.”

He expects Phase I of the park to require the hiring of about 20 local contractors who will be selected from a group of about 1,000 already compiled.  “We are the general contractor and we are responsible for seeing to it that everything is right and on time.”

He said Schlitterbahn will not be hiring off a low bid.  They will hire who they think can get the jobs done right and on time.  Their company is vertically integrated from design to finished construction and their crews know how to do every job required to keep the project on time and done right.  They will try to use as many local contractors and workers as they can.

Jeff Henry said there have been a couple of surprises as the process of planning and construction for the park has moved forward.  He said there are still some unresolved permitting issues with the Island Walk portion of the project which will be a 3500-foot canal connecting the water park on the west side of SPID to Lake Padre, where a marina is planned, via a 40-foot wide water exchange bridge under SPID.  The Island Walk will also connect the current canal system to Lake Padre and through it to the open Gulf of Mexico through Packery Channel.

There are plenty of places to begin building while any permitting issues for the Island Walk are worked out.  Henry says they are excited about the project and ready to hit the ground running around the first of the year.

We’ll keep you posted as to progress along with photos once things begin.  Happy Holidays to all of YOU!!

Cheri Sperling, Owner Coastline Properties

Padre Island Project Updates

Packery Channel

Dredging of Packery Channel from the SH 361 Bridge through the jetties was cut short due to the beginning of the turtle season and stopped about 500 feet short of the mouth leaving a 24,000 cubic foot sand plug which has left the opening with a depth of about 6 (6-10 ft depending on where you are across channel) feet. The natural sand movement around the channel’s opening has changed since Hurricane Ike passed through in 2008 and the result is less scour (deeper region) at the mouth and the formation of a bypass bar just offshore of the mouth of the channel which may be either beneficial, by transferring sand around the channel mouth seasonally from side to side, or a problem depending on what happens this summer season.

Deidre Williams at the Conrad Blucher Institute at A&M Corpus Christi who monitors the channel for the city told the Island Strategic Action Committee Tuesday night the remaining shoal near the mouth (the shoal is inside the Entrance Channel NOT outside the channel) could be of benefit by blocking the entry of sand into the channel mouth directly from the Gulf.  The opportunity for sand to enter the mouth of the channel would be new for Packery. In the past the channel mouth was very shallow due to shoaling and the region around the mouth in the Gulf was very deep- the uphill climb clearly limiting sand entry from the Gulf. Should the plug of sand be removed, the channel mouth and nearshore would be nearly the same depth, possibly allowing for sand to enter  directly from the Gulf. However, she said if the sand begins to be impounded along the west side of the Entrance Channel shoal it could lead to the growth of the shoal and would need to be removed in the future. A survey will be conducted during July to determine if the Entrance Shoal is expanding enough to require removal or if it serves the channel better to leave the shoal for now as a protective measure.  Current plans call for a wait and see approach through the summer season.

She told the ISAC that since the premature opening of the channel by Hurricane Emily in 2005 the width of the channel at (-5 ft depth) inside the SH 361 Bridge has doubled in some sections due to water flow. Between 2006 and 2008 the channel widened at a rate of up to 34 ft/yr and since 2008 the width has increased by about 1.5 ft/yr. Most of the expansion has been on the east side of the channel in the tidal flats but some rest on the west side, where residences are located, have lost as much as 1-10 ft (Note for your information-20ft was only in the water- the navigable channel bank- —).

Williams said the beach on each side of the channel jetties has pushed seaward since the channel  pened increasing the width of the beach to about 500 feet nearest the jetties. The beach is afforded protection by the jetties an alongshore distance of 2,000 ft to the north, just past Turtle Cove development and 4,000 ft to the south, up to about the Holiday Inn. The sand from the recent dredging of the channel was placed from just south of the Holiday Inn to the south end of the seawall, the first major dredging since its opening in 2006. The beach has increased in width by 80-100 feet at the south end. She said the prevailing southeasterly wind is already moving some of that sand north where it will serve to increases the width of the beach from there to the South Packery Jetty.

Inside the channel a small portion of the Basin Shoal was left after dredging and is located near the entrance to Lake Padre which Williams said does not impede boat passage through the channel but if it persists may need to be marked with a buoy.  “The channel is healthy and hasn’t required a lot of maintenance,” Williams said. “That is not by happenstance but by design.” During planning, dredging was predicted at 1 to 3 year intervals but was not needed until 6 years after the channel opened, indicating a successfully designed inlet.

Park Road 22 Bridge

Permitting for the Park Road 22 Water Exchange Bridge is ongoing. Currently the city engineering  department is waiting on a decision form the Army Corp of Engineers about what the exact nature of the impact from the bridge will be. That determination will impact the bridge’s design which has been done but is contingent on the Corp’s decision. Once that decision has been made the city will push forward with the permitting process. A tentative start date for the bridge has been set for the end of 2012.

Gypsy Bridge repairs

Repairs to the underside of the bridge on Gypsy are complete and work is set to begin soon on the road surface which still has a metal plate to cover a pothole. The guardrail which was recently destroyed by a car has been replaced.  Street lights on the new Aquarius Extension The city engineering department has put in a request with AEP to install the lights. The  normal turnaround time for such projects is 4-12 months.  Improvements to Whitecap Water Treatment Plant We recently reported that the Whitewater Treatment Plant has exceeded state limits on bacteria in its outflow more than twenty times since 2009, in some cases as much as 27,000% over the allowable limits. The cure for the problem is a Ultraviolet Light treatment process that is expected to cost between $3-$5 million and will not be installed until at least 2014. In the meantime the city is looking for other ways to stop the problem in the interim which may be cheaper than the UV system to install but will be more expensive to operate.

Restrooms along Packery Channel

The city has placed a portable restroom at the parking lot north of the Packery where street lights are soon to be installed. Plans to build a permanent restroom there are on hold until new FEMA maps are released later this year which may change the designation of the area’s vulnerability to flooding and ease restrictions on the design requirements for the structure and reduce the cost. The original estimated cost of the restrooms was placed at $1.4 million but ISAC members declined to approve payment at that amount from the Island Tax Increment Finance fund. A similar restroom facility on Corpus Christi Beach was put out to bids and the price came back at over $600,000 due to the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires a ramp to reach the facility which must be at least nine feet above ground level. If the area around Packery Channel is rezoned in the new FEMA maps that requirement may not be necessary.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort

Developer Paul Schexnailder told ISAC members in their Tuesday meeting that the park’s developers now have a term sheet in hand from lenders, meaning that negotiations on financing for the park are nearing completion.  “We’re moving forward,” he said. “We will be doing work on the site in August but not turning dirt. There is still much work to be done on permitting before we start digging.” He said the previously stated schedule for the $524 million dollar park and development that calls for it to be open by next summer is still in place, “at this moment.”

Article by Dale Rankin – Padre Island Moon