Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge

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Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge
Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge 0804091506BW.jpg
Coordinates29°44′09″N 95°08′46″W / 29.73597°N 95.146227°W / 29.73597; -95.146227 (Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge)Coordinates: 29°44′09″N 95°08′46″W / 29.73597°N 95.146227°W / 29.73597; -95.146227 (Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge)
CarriesTexas Beltway 8.svg Sam Houston Tollway.svg Beltway 8
CrossesHouston Ship Channel
LocaleHarris County, Texas
Maintained byTexas Turnpike Authority[1]
Designcantilevered concrete trapezoidal haunched hollow box girder bridge[1][2]
Total length1,560 feet (480 m) (main bridge)
2 miles (3.2 km) (total length)[1]
Width59 feet (18 m)[1]
Longest span750 feet (230 m)[2]
Clearance below175 feet (53 m)[2]
Construction start1980[1]
Construction end1982[1]
Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge is located in Texas
Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge
Location in Texas

Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge (formerly known as the Jesse H. Jones Memorial Bridge) is a bridge in Harris County, Texas. It was acquired from the then–Texas Turnpike Authority (TTA) (now North Texas Tollway Authority) on May 5, 1994, and is now a part of the Harris County Toll Road Authority system. The bridge opened to traffic in May 1982. It carries four lanes of Beltway 8 over the Houston Ship Channel with a clearance of 175 feet (53 m).


The 1952 City of Houston planning document recommended a second loop designated the Outer Belt. Harris County took control of the project in 1960. Efforts to construct the Beltway 8 crossing started in the mid-1960s, culminating in an effort vetoed by Governor John Connally on June 18, 1967. Voters twice rejected bond funds for the bridge, so the effort was reconstituted as a toll bridge. This did not work at that time.

In 1978, the Texas Turnpike Authority performed a study showing the project as feasible, and sold $102M (approximately $333.1M in 2008[3]) of bonds to fund it.

Among designs looked at, a cable-stayed design was studied, but not sufficiently understood at the time. Such was later used on the Fred Hartman Bridge, but in 1978 when this bridge was designed, the only U.S. example of a cable-stayed bridge was the Ed Hendler Bridge, meaning there was a deficiency of design and construction experience for the bridge type.

Construction and financing[edit]

Construction completed in 1982 and the bridge was opened on May 6. At the time of completion, the bridge was the longest box girder span in the Western Hemisphere, which record it held until 1997 and the opening of the Confederation Bridge. It is no longer in the top 20 of longest box girder spans.[4]

Traffic volume had been projected to be 4 million vehicles in 1982, but came in at only 1.69 million, a 58-percent shortfall. This was attributed to a lack of connections to the bridge. Additional ramps were completed in 1984, but the results were insufficient to service the bonds. The bonds were refinanced in 1985 at a rate of 12.625 percent (original rate was 7.54 percent), and could not be paid off until July 1, 2002. Total debt service as of the end of 1985 was $522M, with a minimum of $176M.[5]

Traffic volume increased, but not sufficiently to cover the 1985 junk bonds. In 1994, Harris County took over the bridge for the consideration of TxDOT contributing money toward further area highway construction. By 2002, the average toll of $2 brought in approximately $20M, enough to cover bond payments.[5]

In January 8th 2016, the toll bridge was EZ TAG only; According to the Texas Department of Transportation, this removed the toll plazas into the bridge and drivers going to the bridge will need an EZ Tag. This is because of a widening project.


In 2018, construction began on a twin-span cable-stayed bridge to replace the existing one. The replacement bridges are designed by Figg Engineering Group and the contractor for the project is Ship Channel Constructors, a joint venture between Traylor Brothers Inc. and Zachry Construction Corp.[6] When completed, each bridge will carry 4 lanes of one-way traffic. The bridges will take three years each to be completed, with the southbound bridge set for completion in 2021 and the northbound bridge in 2024. When the southbound bridge is completed the existing bridge will be demolished and the northbound bridge will be built in its footprint. The electronic tolling started in 2016 will continue throughout the duration of the project.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jesse H. Jones Memorial Bridge at Structurae
  2. ^ a b c d Slotboom, Eric (2003). Houston Freeways: A Historical and Visual Journey. O. F. Slotboom. p. 366. ISBN 978-0-9741605-3-5.
  3. ^ S. Morgan Friedman. "The Inflation Calculator". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  4. ^ Slotboom, p. 367
  5. ^ a b Slotboom, pp.368-370
  6. ^ Engineering News-Record (2018-06-20). "Work Begins on $1B Ship Channel Bridge in Houston". Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  7. ^ Delaughter, Gail (2018-06-01). "Work Starts On Billion-Dollar Project To Replace Houston Ship Channel Toll Bridge". University of Houston. Retrieved 2018-06-06.

External links[edit]