Construction bids for the State Highway 146 expansion project are expected to be sent out in May 2018 with the start of construction following soon after. The estimated $178.4 million project funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is intended to ease the daily traffic congestion spanning most of State Highway 146 in Seabrook and will continue partially into Kemah and League City.
TxDOT reports on its website that the expansion will take the highway from its current four lanes up to 12 lanes and will include an “elevated expressway” stretching from Nasa Parkway in Seabrook to State Highway 96, which ends in League City. The expressway will have arterial and feeder roads connecting at ground level. The construction is expected to take three-to-five years.
On Oct. 3, TxDOT and Union Pacific reached an agreement, which in addition to negotiations with local businesses, will complete the right-of-way acquisitions so that construction bids will be available this spring.
Expanding State Highway 146 has already made an impact on the local community. Multiple businesses that have been in the area for years are relocating or closing altogether.
Impacted businesses that have already closed include Sonic, Taco Bell and Popeye’s. Future closings include Wells Fargo and other local favorites including Neptune’s Subs, Donald’s Donuts and Sno-Cone Express. Other businesses plan to relocate to adjacent roads like Mario’s Italian Restaurant, which will move to Nasa Parkway. CVS and Autozone will both move near the Repsdorph traffic circle.
“Most of the local businesses are closing down,” said Paloma McClain, communication major. “I grew up here [in Seabrook] being used to everything being so close together. I honestly don’t know how Seabrook would be Seabrook anymore.”
Paul Chavez, director of economic development for the City of Seabrook, said that TxDOT is expected to purchase most the properties needed for the project by the end of the year.
While the city is currently dealing with the pre-construction consequences, Chavez has a positive outlook for residents.
“The impact of the closing businesses would be buffered because of the new business opportunity and existing businesses relocating – business should be fairly stable,” Chavez said.
Chavez also said developers and builders will be able to build and expand where the highway once restricted them.
“Seabrook has an attraction to new, small, local businesses; they love the waterfront and the city will still have the small-town charm,” Chavez said.
A longtime Seabrook favorite, Tookie’s Burgers, is expecting to relocate to the old Ichibon Restaurant in Kemah but has not released details on the move. The manager of Tookie’s Burgers, Joshua Lloyd, believes the new Tookie’s Seafood will be unaffected by the expansion.
“It’s unfortunate. Tookie’s Burgers is an institution to the Seabrook community,” Lloyd said. “We’ll have to relocate, but I think it will help. The expansion is necessary, and I’m excited for the finished product, but it will be frustrating. It’s going to be less-than-fun dealing with the construction and detours.”
TxDOT states on its website that four lanes of traffic will remain open at all times. Clear and direct road signage will be used to show detours and other closures – which will be vital to keep the city moving while the roads are changing.
TxDOT claims that expanding State Highway 146 is vital due to the mobility and safety attributes the highway has to offer, especially since it is a designated evacuation route during natural disasters.
“Regional mobility and hurricane evacuation are keys to the importance of this project,” TxDOT reports on the website. “Seabrook is located in the heart of two areas that are exploding with new growth and State Highway 146 could not keep up with the volumes.”
McClain acknowledges the struggle of dealing with the traffic on State Highway 146, but is uneasy about the fate of her hometown.
“The only positive I can think of is that I get to deal with less traffic, but now I guess I’ll need to travel further to find certain places when they only used to be down the street,” McClain said.
For current news and updates about the State Highway 146 expansion, visit sh146.com or contact the TxDOT Public Information Office at 713-802-5076.