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Over 75% of New Galveston Causeway Destroyed in Hurricane of 1915

February 7, 2012

During the research for my previous post about the construction of the Galveston Causeway, I found several contemporary sources that stated that the causeway consisted of 28 70′ long arches, with the 100′ long rolling lift bridge in the middle of the 28 arches. Because I did have several sources for that info, I posted this information in one of the photo captions.

Over the weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about that caption. Something just didn’t seem right. I seem to recall a lot more the 28 arches. As a matter of fact, there must be more than 28 arches. Doing the math, 28 arches at 70 feet is less than half a mile. I know the causeway is a bit over two miles long. Where did all the other arches come from?

I was able to locate two original sources that shed light on this burning question.

Engineering and Contracting-1911 has an article about the construction that mentions the 28 70′ long arches, but it also notes the 28 arch bridges were connected to the mainland by 3696′ of  “protected roadway”. Another 4523′ section of “protected roadway” connected the arch bridges to Galveston Island.

OK. What’s a “protected roadway”, and what happened to it?

The first question is answered in the same article (click here to view) from Engineering and Contracting-1911:  “the protected roadway consists of an earth embankment retained between two rows of concrete sheet piles, extending 4 feet above the water. The piles…form continuous bulkheads on the sides of the earth fill. The top of the rows of piles is covered with a reinforced concrete cap…The (slope of the) earth embankment is protected with a paving of 6 inches of concrete.”

Here’s an old postcard showing the original design of the Galveston Causeway.

The original design of the Galveston Causeway included 8219' of "protected roadway", wide concrete capped earthen approaches to the original 28 arches.

So what happened to this original design?

The entire  “protected roadway” segment, over 75% of the original Galveston Causeway was washed away by a hurricane that struck Galveston on August 15-16, 1915.

Steam and interurban rails hang from the arched bridge segment of the Galveston causeway after the hurricane of 1915.

From August 25, 1915 Engineering News, Vol. 74, No. 9:  “The city’s only line of communication with the mainland  was not only broken but in larger part destroyed. The only portion remaining intact is the 28 reinforced concrete arches, 70 ft. span, and the rolling-lift steel bridge of 100 ft. span in the center of the arches.”

A review of the “protected roadway” segment revealed “the lines of concrete piling were intact at every point, but the sand-and-gravel fill was scooped out by the action of the water (storm surge), letting down the concrete slabs.”

The Galveston Causeway would be re-built with an all arched bridge design, but it would not be complete until 1922.

You know what’s funny? This whole post started out because I knew that the Galveston Causeway must have more than 28 arched bridges. It does have more than 28. I just don’t know exactly how many…


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