HOUSTON - On Wednesday night, a representative for the Harris County Flood Control District apologized and said they made a mistake after they did not alert neighbors ahead of time about the plans to shut down and remove the Ardmore Street Bridge across Brays Bayou.
As part of Project Brays, Harris County Flood Control District is reconstructing several bridges to help with long-term flood control along the bayou.
The massive project that will include modifications to the channel and bridge along Ardmore, Buffalo Speedway and Stella Link Bridges, but people who live near MacGregor and use the Ardmore Bridge said no one notified them about construction plans.
Neighbors said they were shocked to see an electronic sign pop up last week that said the bridge would be closed starting Nov. 19.
“We didn’t find out until three days later that it was going to be closed for 14 to 18 months with no alternative route, there was no detour,” said Tomoro Bell, president of the super neighborhood. “But when you take away the artery that we use, that is minutes that is lost that can cost people their lives and that is what this meeting was about.”
She and others said they were concerned for their safety because it would become difficult for emergency crews to get to them due to the closure. They were also worried about the backup of traffic from the Texas Medical Center and Highway 288 that uses the bridge to make U-turns on the one-way street.
“Tonight was about making Harris County Flood Control accountable to our community,” explained Bell.
In less than 18 hours, she and others put together an emergency meeting at the Robinson Community Center located at 2020 Herman Dr. to speak face-to-face with local officials.
Harris County Pct. One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Houston City Council Member Dwight Boykins and Curtis Lampley from Harris County Flood Control District attended and had a conversation with Bell, and took questions from a room full of concerned citizens.
Commissioner Ellis said he received the phone calls that there was not a community meeting held in Third Ward and other nearby neighborhoods to address the closures.
He announced that Flood Control District will re-open the bridge until after the beginning of the new year, and after the meeting, crews were seen removing equipment from the bridge.
“I apologize, we made a mistake. It was an oversight. I don’t know what else I can say. I don’t know what else we can do other than moving forward meet with the organization and let’s talk about the issue at hands,” said Lampley.
When asked why, Lampley said it was an oversight on their part for not having a community meeting.
“They said they did a study 15 years ago that we didn’t want the Ardmore Bridge pulled and that’s the public data they were going to use, the federal government calls that stale information,” expressed Bell.
“Nobody asked us anything about the bridge. OK you need to replace the bridge, fine, I don’t have a problem with it, but you have created a mass problem because of the traffic, because so many people use the Ardmore Bridge to get in and out of the neighborhood,” said long time neighbor Sammye Prince Hughes.
She said she appreciates the apology, but wants to see what they’ll do in order to accommodate the traffic woes when the bridge is closed in 2019.
“That’s all well and good, now what are you going to do, words are cheap, actions count,” expressed Prince Hughes. “You can tell me you’re sorry until the cows come home, but if you don’t actually include me in a solution, then what’s the purpose?”
Lampley, along with the other officials, said they will hold another meeting with the next week or so with the community to get their input. The big discussion will touch on where the detour will be located while crews work on the flood mitigation project which will start of 2019.
Bell said she will make sure of it.
“They will have another meeting, let me be very clear about that and I was very satisfied that they came out and owned up to their mistake. That is very rare in government agencies, they admitted that they had made a mistake because I called the other communities and they had engaged them, but they had not engaged us and had no intention of engaging us,” said Bell.
The topic came up that closing the bridge for the next month didn’t make sense because the actual project wouldn’t take place until after the holidays.
Whatever the solution will be, there’s no doubt it will be an intergovernmental project to figure out the resolution to ease the traffic issues that will happen starting in 2019 and expected to wrap up in August.
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