Fulton International Trade Corridor

By R.G. Pickard | September 28, 2010

Beginning in the 1960s, plans were developed to expand the terminal capacity of the Port of Corpus Christi and, after a number of feasibility studies, the construction of the Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor was started in June 2004 and is scheduled for completion in early November 2007, although weather and change orders are expected to affect that date. The corridor is part of a $54.77-million expansion of the Port of Corpus Christi.

The Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor, which includes a roadway 11.5 miles long and a railway with 7 miles of new track, combined with Corpus Christi's geographic location as the center of a hub with 140 mile spokes reaching to San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley International Bridge, will enhance the intermodal freight capability of the port. The road construction is headed by contractor Haas-Anderson Construction Ltd., of Corpus Christi. The major subcontractors on the roadway project are DGI-Menard, Inc.; CCC Group; Jhabores Construction Company, Inc.; Star Operations, Inc.; W. W. Webber, Inc.; and Soil Tech, Inc.

Difficulties in construction were caused by the soft soils as well as the need to reclaim land and build up new land mass in the area of the Viola Turning Basin. Because the roadway and railway had to be built on alluvial soils from the Nueces River and over sites previously used for dredge material disposal, the job required extensive soil stabilization and the construction of embankments to increase elevation. The embankments have to accommodate a 50-foot-wide railway right of way and a 150-foot-wide highway right of way with two 12-foot-wide travel lanes with 10-foot-wide shoulders.

According to Haas-Anderson Construction, Ltd., the soft soils were accessed by rolling out a biaxial geogrid in front of a 30-inch sand fill. The dump trucks were not allowed within 30 feet of the leading edge of the fill, and low-ground-pressure dozers were used to push the sand into its location while preventing mud waves. Once the sand platform was in place, 60-foot-deep wick drains were installed on approximately 3-foot centers in a grid pattern to enable groundwater to percolate out of the soil, enabling the soil base to strengthen and stabilize in preparation for the embankment surcharge. Approximately 1,826,000 linear feet of wick drain has been installed on the site and the water content of the sand base is monitored with Piezometers which measure pour water pressure within the base.

The embankments for both the roadway and railroad were built with select fill and stabilized with geogrid. The geogrid used is a combination of uniaxial and biaxial depending on the application. Approximately 434,000 square yards of geogrid is installed on the project.

It was also necessary to add usable land mass for the railway embankment in the narrow area between the Viola Turning Basin and the Nueces River. This required relocation of a number of existing pipelines and the use of sheet pile bulkheading to stabilize the raised embankment, with each bulkhead secured with a tie rod and sleeve system to allow for settlement of the new land mass. On the embankment side of the bulkheads, a rock retaining slope increases stability of the artificial land mass.

Most of the roadway surface is a two-course surface treatment of AC5 and PB3 and PB4 on top of a 16-inch-thick layer of limestone flex base. The remainder of the roadway and some of the intersections are TxDOT specification TY B and TY C hot mix.

Additionally, because of the high humidity of the region, High Performance Concrete (HPC) was used in the 29 span railroad overpass. Among other things, this concrete has a relatively high content of flyash to increase the density of the mix and help reduce moisture penetration.

From a contractor's perspective, the most interesting part of this project was the integration of the various tasks and construction disciplines involved. Not only were there challenges involved with building a road through dredge material, but also a bridge, various drainage structures, a sheet pile bulkheads, and a railroad.

The Union Pacific railway is also under construction now with track construction expected to be complete in November 2007. The roadway itself is expected to be open for use by March 2008.

Once completed, the Port of Corpus Christi expansion and the Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor will allow development of approximately 1,100 acres of property along the ship channel and will open for development 4.5 miles of ship channel frontage. Additionally it will provide an alternate route for vehicles which currently have to travel over the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge. Future industrial uses of the port area will include barge mooring areas, rail storage areas, a cement import terminal, shipyards, oil dock, an equipment/rig fabrication yard, a bulk materials terminal, military lay berths or deployment areas, and a lumber import and export terminal.