County to close historic bridge

HISTORICAL CROSSING’The Waldrip Bridge, one of the few remaining suspension bridges in the area, is scheduled to be closed in the near future. The bridge is one of the few places throughout McCulloch County to cross the Colorado River via a public right of way. The 640-foot long bridge was constructed in 1911. In a topic not yet discussed in open court, the McCulloch County Commissioners are now faced with officially closing the old Waldrip Bridge, one of the most historic suspension bridges in Central Texas. The Coleman County Comm-issioners, the adjoining county and half owners of the bridge, voted to close access to the old bridge that spans the Colorado River between McCulloch and Coleman Counties. The announcement came in a Coleman Commissioner’s meeting held Monday morning. Located on County Road 322 4.5 miles north of F.M. 765 in the northwest portion of McCulloch County, the 640-foot long, 24-foot wide bridge, is one of the oldest bridges of its kind in the state. Over the years, the bridge has slowly deteriorated to the point at which it has been deemed by many to be unsafe. The Coleman commissioners had three choices’repair, rebuild or close the bridge. To repair would have cost an approximate $300,000 to $400,000. To rebuild would have cost an approximate $1.3 million. Even with a joint effort by both McCulloch and Coleman counties, the amount of traffic using the bridge arguably does not warrant a massive expense for refurbishment or rebuilding. Bryan Raschke with the Texas Department of Transportation gave the commissioners a report with details of the deterioration. Stringers having shifted, the major deck needs to be replaced, wire rope needs repairs, deck planks have shifted and numerous other parts of the bridge have deteriorated. Along with advice from Attorney Paul Jensen, who lives in the vicinity, the bridge was deemed by the Coleman officials as a danger for anyone using it, and they subsequently voted unanimously to close it. The 90-year-old bridge, originally owned and maintained by the state, was given to both counties numerous years ago. To date, it remains as one, if not the only crossing, of the Colorado River in that portion of the county. In its current capacity, the bridge is load zoned for 3,500 pounds per axle, roughly the equivalent of a large sport utility vehicle. The physical structure of the bridge is rapidly deteriorating as evidenced by missing planks and rusty support structures. McCulloch County Judge Randy Young was contacted earlier this week by the Coleman commissioners and informed of that county’s intention to close bridge access from their side of the river. The McCulloch County Commissioners have not yet addressed the issue in county court.

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