Update: Portion of eastbound Research Forest Drive likely to remain closed through next week following SJRA water line break

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Update 10:09 a.m. Sept. 19

With a flash flood warning in effect early Sept. 19 through much of Montgomery County, including The Woodlands, SJRA crews were unable to continue work on the damaged water line due to the severe weather. SJRA General Manager Jace Houston said Thursday he expects the repair process will last around 10 days after crews can resume work on the pipeline and roadway at Research Forest Drive between Technology Forest Boulevard and New Trails Drive.

Posted 1:46 p.m. Sept. 18

Eastbound lanes on Research Forest Drive between Technology Forest Boulevard and New Trails Drive in The Woodlands will remain closed this week following a major water line break beneath the road Sept. 13, officials said.

The water line, a 30-inch San Jacinto River Authority pipeline located about 11 feet beneath eastbound Research Forest Drive, experienced a burst east of Technology Forest the afternoon of Sept. 13. While the SJRA said the break did not affect water service in The Woodlands, officials closed the block of Research Forest Drive due to concerns of potential erosion creating a void in the material under the road.

“The break of the 30-inch line sent water shooting through the subsurface of the road, causing an undetermined amount of damage to the subgrade and structure of Research Forest Drive at that location,” Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said in a Sept. 14 post on his Facebook page.

Over the weekend, SJRA contractors isolated the water line leak and pumped out excess water beneath the road while coring crews worked to identify the extent of the damage beneath Research Forest Drive. New material was placed under the westbound lanes to backfill any structural gaps created by the burst and the road’s stability was confirmed before reopening that side of the street Sept. 15, Noack said. The eastbound portion of Research Forest Drive remains closed as SJRA contractors work to restore the damaged water line and repair the road’s pavement.

“A significant amount of pavement subgrade was transported through water flow, leaving the pavement structure without adequate support for traffic on the eastbound lanes,” Noack said in a separate Facebook post over the weekend. “The eastbound lanes will remain closed until the water is fully evacuated, the subgrade is exposed, and the full extent of the water pipeline damage can be determined and repaired.”

In a statement, the SJRA said its contractors found the source of the leak in a 20-foot section of the underground water line around 1 a.m. on Sept. 16. The damaged pipe was removed, and the water line was temporarily capped, and crews now plan to install and test a new pipe before filling the excavation area and repairing the road. The SJRA said it expects delays in the repair process due to the weather effects of Tropical Storm Imelda tracking through Greater Houston this week.

While repair work continues, The SJRA and Precinct 3 has advised drivers to avoid the affected portion of Research Forest Drive by taking alternate east-west routes through The Woodlands, including Woodlands Parkway, Lake Woodlands Drive, Hwy. 242 and FM 1488.

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