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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Fred Hartman Bridge
TX-146 Houston Ship Channel Crossing At Baytown
Baytown, Texas

Fred Hartman Bridge

• Bridge: Fred Hartman Bridge
• Structure ID: 121020038912089 (Northbound)
• Structure ID: 121020038912090 (Southbound)
• City: Baytown
• State: Texas
• Country: USA
• Carries: TX-146
• Crosses: Houston Ship Channel
• Date Opened: June 1, 1996
• Total Length: 13,730 Feet
• Longest Span: 1,250 Feet
• Tower Height: 440 Feet
• Deck Width: 78 Feet Per Span, 154 Feet Overall
• Number Of Lanes: 8 (4 Per Span)
• Number Of Spans: 2
• Height Above Water: 177 Feet
• Traffic Count: 56,020 (2000)
This crossing originally had a ferry. The ferry was replaced with the Baytown-La Port Tunnel. That tunnel was too close to the surface when the ship channel was deepened to 45 feet. At first, it was planned to seal the tunnel and cut it into 3 sections, then tow it out to sea to be used as an artificial reef. That plan was scrapped when it was realized that an accident could leave the ship channel blocked. As a result, the tunnel was demolished.

The Hartman Bridge is huge any way you look at it. Another bridge that compares is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina. Both bridges are about the same length, about the same main span, and both carry 8 lanes of traffic. While the Ravenel bridge solved this problem with a single span that carries all 8 lanes, the Hartman bridge has two spans of 4 lanes each. This lead to the Hartman bridge having 4 towers rather than two, and nearly double the number of stay cables. A secondary result of having more stay cables is that they towers did not need to be nearly as tall. In fact, the towers on the Hartman bridge are nearly 100 feet shorter than the Ravenel bridge.

The Fred Hartman Bridge suffered from a characteristic that many cable stay bridges have, and that is vibration in the cables that starts during a light rain. These vibrations have lead to over 100 welds failing on the structure. A solution using dampening cables was installed, which as largely solved the problem. The bridge has since been inspected and repaired.

There are reports that this bridge is heavily patrolled. In my two visits, I did not see any law enforcement or other officials. However, the bridge was closed down for a period of time in 2003 when the Coast Guard spotted someone placing a box under one of the support towers. It turned out that the box contained a dead cat.

Bridge is named after Texas native Fred Hartman, who was a WWII hero, Texas state Director of Transportation, and publisher of the local Baytown newspaper. Given that there are two independent spans, the National Bridge Inventory considers these to be two bridges, each with its own NBI number.

Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge
Fred Hartman Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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