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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A groundbreaking ceremony attended by Gov. Greg Abbott and many other dignitaries was held Monday for the next Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge.

The new $900 million bridge will take about five years to construct. It will replace the current structure that was created in 1959. The new bridge will incorporate a 21st century design and 21st century architecture. The harbor bridge will be 538 feet tall and 1,655 feet wide, making it the third largest in the world.

“I would like to congratulate TxDOT, the City of Corpus Christi and the Port of Corpus Christi on this achievement,” Gov. Abbott said. “Today’s groundbreaking marks an important step in Texas’ goal of creating a 21st century infrastructure system that gives us an advantage on our global competitors.

“As one of the largest bridge projects in Texas history, the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge will lead to an expansion in commerce, ultimately creating more jobs and enhancing Texas’ standing as an economic powerhouse.”

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who represents Corpus Christi, said: “Incredible groundbreaking ceremony today of the new Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge. I am honored to be a part of this historic project and to see over a decade of planning, development and commitment become reality.”

The span of the bridge will entirely cover the ship channel, and will also have two main towers, both 538 feet tall. It will include a 205 draft, a draft so large as to allow the world’s largest vessels to enter the inner harbor.

The new structure will have more than six miles of bridge and connecting roadway and require reconstruction of parts of Interstate 37 and the Crosstown Expressway. The bridge will have six lanes, as well as a bikeway and pathway.

Funding will come from state and federal sources along with local monies from Nueces and San Patricio counties, and the Port of Corpus Christi.

The new harbor bridge is scheduled for completion by April 2021. A precast concrete option was used for the design of the project. This option will allow the ship channel to remain open for freight shipments while it is under construction. The option was also chosen due to its durability when exposed to the corrosive coastal climate.

The total span and width of the project will make it the longest precast concrete cable-stayed span in the United States.

Additional facts about the new harbor bridge:

•    Cable-stayed bridge design with a main-span of 1,665 feet
•    The new and improved design will also create a full-length pedestrian walkway.
•    205-foot navigational clearance above the Main Turning Basin waterway – large enough that the former Harbor Bridge could fit beneath it
•    New clearance will allow largest ocean-going vessels, including those crossing the newly expanded Panama Canal, access to the Port of Corpus Christi
•    Utilizes advanced bridge technologies, materials and construction techniques that allow for a life span of more than 170 years)

“TxDOT is improving safety and connectivity in the area with a new bridge that is world-class in engineering and design,” said Tryon Lewis, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “TxDOT employees and their partners have developed a project that is an outstanding combination of innovation, beauty and functionality.”

The U.S. 181 Harbor Bridge Replacement Project is one of the largest bridge projects in Texas history. It is projected to be a major economic generator for the Coastal Bend region, allowing the Port of Corpus Christi to compete with ports across the globe. A major reason for its construction was that it would allow for more exports from the Port of Corpus Christi.

Port leaders say it will be able to handle commerce more efficiently by expanding to fit all types of ships and vessels. The new bridge is also expected to improve hurricane evacuation and safety by adding inside and outside shoulders that the old bridge lacked.

“With the historic groundbreaking today of the new Harbor Bridge, we are seeing over a decade of planning and development come to reality,” Sen. Hinojosa said.

“Replacing the Harbor Bridge ensures that Corpus Christi will continue to have a striking presence and will thrive as a local and international port promising economic growth, prosperity, jobs and opportunities for years to come. The new Harbor Bridge will be considered one of the largest investments ever in our economy and will secure the Coastal Bend’s economic future and put us on the global map for international shipping and tourism.”
Hinojosa added: “I am honored to represent the people of South Texas and be a part of this historic project as we are literally bridging the Coastal Bend to the rest of the world and to the future.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Esmeralda Torres contributed to this story from Corpus Christi.