Is nightmare commute nearly over?

October 16, 2008 4:51:19 PM PDT
Getting to and from work has been a nightmare on many occasions for drivers who typically use the Washburn Tunnel. The underwater tunnel which connects Galena Park and Pasadena has been out of commission since Hurricane Ike. Repair crews are now testing out the electrical system in the tunnel. Back on September 13, water produced by the storm surge from the Ship Channel flowed into the tunnel. The channel spilled over its banks and that's what filled up the tunnel.

"Our staff had to scramble and move some cars," said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.

Garcia has field offices at the tunnel. Ten million gallons of water was pumped out.

"We also found in the lower part of the mid-channel area, we found a lot of dead fish," she said. "Enough to fill up three or four 50-gallon drums."

Ike also put the Lynchburg Ferry out of commission. It, too, remains closed, shifting traffic to the Sherman Tollway Bridge over the Channel, which has waived fees until the tunnel reopens.

But the diverted traffic is creating gridlock in the area.

"It has been backed up," said driver Matt Tomasik. "Usually I take the exit right over the toll bridge and usually that exit took a couple of minutes to get through there, stop lights and to get on (Highway) 225. It's now taking me 15-20 minutes to get through that light now."

Commuters are affected, too. Terri Hayes travels 225 from La Porte to the Medical Center five times a week and her drive time has doubled.

"It adds to the congestion," she said. "You have more people in hotels and things that are having to get around in this area. That's kind of how I'm beginning to see it, more congestion all around."

We're told the tunnel as well as the Lynchburg Ferry could open as early as sometime next week.

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