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Texas’ Historical Bridges Have Charm, But Many Are Obsolete

Some Texas bridges are so rusted or otherwise deteriorated that they’ll have to be torn down.

Thu October 15, 2015 - National Edition
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CUERO, Texas (AP) The narrow metal bridge across the Guadalupe River was built in 1938 and full of picturesque charm — but it’s not very functional for today’s traffic needs.

The truss bridge in Cuero, about 90 mi. southeast of San Antonio, has a 24-ft. (7.3 m) passing that is too tight for a lot of modern traffic. It’s an example of a problem state officials are facing across Texas: How to salvage the identity of historical bridges, many of which are treasured landmarks but also structurally obsolete.

The issue is especially acute in areas like Cuero that have seen an energy boom, bringing oil patch traffic that has taken a toll on local infrastructure.

There are 13 historical bridges in the surrounding area, and many have been similarly taxed by oilfield traffic. Some are so rusted or otherwise deteriorated that they’ll have to be torn down.

But in August, the Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Historical Commission conducted joint town halls statewide to weigh options for retaining such bridges, at least in some form, The Victoria Advocate reported.

Many of the historical structures are truss bridges, whose load-bearing structures form distinctive triangular peaks. Such designs were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries because they were easy and relatively inexpensive to build.

But they were not, of course, completed to meet the needs of modern traffic. Today, many such bridges can’t accommodate large trucks and other traffic, which are forced to drive long distances in order to find alternative crossings over bodies of water.

Some bridges, like the one over the Guadalupe along U.S. Highway 87, will be rehabbed with their original materials contributing to modernization plans. Beginning in 2019, engineers plan to build a second, concrete bridge alongside it that will create two one-way bridges.

Another modernization effort that has given historical bridges new life is in the town of Shiner, where a former traffic bridge over Boggy Creek was repurposed as a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles.

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