Washburn Tunnel to reopen Saturday

October 24, 2008 2:31:30 PM PDT
Drivers frustrated by traffic delays since Hurricane Ike are getting their wish -- the Washburn Tunnel is reopening.Harris County Precinct Two Commissioner Sylvia R. Garcia has announced that the Washburn Tunnel, closed since Saturday, September 13th due to Hurricane Ike, will re-open Saturday, October 25th at 5am.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) which has waived fees on the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge as a result of the tunnel closure has announced that the standard toll rates will resume Wednesday, October 29th.

"The only discussion about the future of this tunnel was how quickly we could safely get it open again," Garcia said. "The numbers, more than 25,000 vehicles per day, point to this thoroughfare's importance to our region."

The tunnel, which had never completely flooded in the structure's 58-year history, was inundated by storm surge both from the Houston Ship Channel on the south and from Greens Bayou on the north in the early morning hours after the eye of Hurricane Ike had come ashore.

It took a full week of pumping 24-hours per day to remove in excess of ten million gallons of water from the mile-long tunnel. Safety inspections, replacement of electrical wiring for lights and safety cameras and clean-up have cost nearly $100,000.

There are still some repairs which do not affect traffic safety which need to be made. The flood gates, built to keep rain-related floodwater out of the tunnel need repairs and, there is still some painting inside the tunnel which will be completed during non-peak traffic hours.

The Washburn Tunnel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the only traffic tunnel located in Texas. It is named after Harry L. Washburn who had served as Harris County Auditor.

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