Other efforts happening at the same time as the bridge construction are required, including adding travel lanes to and from the bridges from FM 1626 to RM 967; adding turn lanes at FM 2770 and RM 967 to and from the Robert S. Light Blvd. extension; and building walls at the UPRR bridge abutment headers.
(Photo courtesy of BGE Inc.)
Buda, Texas, in Hays County, has doubled in population since 2020; it is on pace to continue to grow rapidly as are other communities near the explosive expansion in nearby Austin. Congestion is bound to get worse as the number of semis rolling through town increases and the delays at the railroad crossings get longer.
TxDOT and Hays County are taking action before the problem increases in Buda. TxDOT has engaged engineering firm BGE Inc. to work with J3 Company to overhaul Robert S. Light Boulevard.
The RM 967/Robert S. Light Boulevard extension project constructs a travel lane in each direction from RM 967 to FM 1626. It also constructs overpasses at the Union Pacific Railroad, the Mustang Branch of Onion Creek and the Centex Materials haul road, as well as add turn lanes on RM 967 and FM 2770 to and from the newly constructed roadway.
The $17.7 million upgrade will create a bypass for trucks and other traffic, carrying it over the Mustang Branch of Onion Creek, the Centex Haul Road and the busy Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) tracks and on toward I-35 and other destinations. The new upgrades to Robert S. Light Boulevard will facilitate travel from its current endpoint at RM 967 to FM 1626, just south of the city.
Construction is planned for two years, culminating in 2023.
While the construction of two bridges will constitute much of the heavy lifting for the project, other efforts happening at the same time as the bridge building are required including:
- Adding travel lanes to and from the bridges from FM 1626 to RM 967;
- Adding turn lanes at FM 2770 and RM 967 to and from the Robert S. Light Boulevard. extension;
- Building walls at the UPRR bridge abutment headers;
- Building a water quality pond for the Mustang Branch Bridge and a detention pond for the UPRR bridge area.
Buda grew up around the railroads in the late 1800s, so the new bridges will bring some welcome relief.
"The Mustang Branch Crossing Bridge is essentially complete and now our team is working on the second bridge over the UPRR, which has 10 spans," said Craig Patterson, project manager of J3. "The terrain at the Mustang Branch bridge was challenging, meaning we had to clear out trees and shape the land. There also are several significant holes and hills we had to contend with to create a smooth ground for access to cast-in-place the bridge bent columns, caps and decking."
The drillers for the drilled shafts encountered a small cave while drilling for abutment 1 of the Mustang Bridge. Elsewhere they drilled pilings as deep as 60 ft. to provide solid support for the bridges. The Mustang Branch Bridge is 1,575 ft. long with 13 spans. No other caves were encountered for the remainder of the drilling.
"Another significant issue is working around the busy UPRR tracks," said Patterson. "We coordinated to schedule UPRR designated flaggers to alert us whenever trains are coming. Setting beams across the tracks was especially challenging when we had to halt the process numerous times for train passings. Setting the six beams over the UPRR tracks took three times as long as normal."
Patterson expects the bridge decks to be complete by Thanksgiving, then the tie-ins to the roadways can be completed.
Most of the materials for the project have come from local sources including asphalt, concrete and aggregates
The Roberts S. Light Boulevard new lanes include a pavement section of 14-in. crushed limestone flex base and then three lifts of asphalt of various depths for a total of 4-1/2 to 5-1/2-in. of asphalt topped with a thin 1-in. layer of asphalt to complete the road throughout the project.
The project required 15,000 cu. yds. of concrete, 2.5 million lbs. of steel and 22,500 tons of asphalt.
"Vehicles going through Buda now have to wait sometimes 10-15 minutes after a train passing at the main tracks in Buda," said Patterson. "That would only get worse as the area continues to grow. The new bridges and road improvements on Robert S. Light Blvd. will help fix that problem." CEG
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