Waco: Suspension Bridge restoration nearing completion

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 12:06 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Anyone crossing the Brazos River into downtown Waco this week got an eye-full.

“We have had a bunch of activity this week,” said Tom Balk, Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Waco.

The Suspension Bridge renovation has reached a major milestone: the removal of its mid-river supports.

Balk says they’re essentially the “crutches” that have been holding the bridge up since work on it started in the Fall of 2020.

Underwater divers and a massive crane were needed for the removal.

“It’s been very fascinating to watch, these guys are incredible,” said Balk. “The most notable thing was an 80-ton crane that mobilized to the site, very tall, very large, but definitely necessary to assist in lugging these large steel casings out of the river.”

Now that the structural system on the historic bridge has been replaced, including the cables and anchorage, city officials say ‘the end is near.’

“Up on the bridge deck itself, we’ve still got some work going on for the wood side-path installation, that will be continuing for a couple more weeks, but from there we’re going to be moving off of the bridge deck itself to reconstruct the plazas on either side, so that will be the home stretch,” Balk told KWTX Wednesday. “We’re on-track for project completion by Fall of this year, and that is very exciting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Once complete, Balk says it will look mostly the same.

“We have a hardwood that has an exceptional lifespan, so this wood in particular will silver overtime from the effects of the sun, so it’s going to be very durable, but its color palette will fade to be close to what it was before,” said Balk. “If we’ve done our work right, what we’ll have is a bridge that is structurally superior, has many longevity improvements, but aesthetically doesn’t differ very much from what we had before because that’s one of the important things about a historic structure like this.”

According to structural engineers, the bridge shouldn’t have to go through another major rehab for at least 50 to 75 years, probably longer.

“That would be the longest in the lifespan of this bridge, the greatest success we’ve seen to date,” said Balk. “We will continue or annual, biannual, every decade and generational inspections of the structure and of the surfaces and things like that, but with the improvements made in this project the city council has really invested in trying to strengthen and and lengthen the lifespan of these components.”

Balk says they’re thankful for the public’s patience and they’re looking forward to getting the community back on the books for weddings and other celebrations at the bridge.

“In late October we should be ready to start taking reservations again,” said Balk. “We’re excited to be able to bring that to the community,”

There will be a “kickoff extravaganza” when the bridge reopens this Fall, however, a date has yet to be set.

“It really has been a labor of love, not only for the City of Waco project team but also our out-of-town contractors, as well as our engineer,” said Balk. “We brought people in, and they’ve fallen people in love with Waco, and this structure in particular, and they’ve given it the care, love, and attention it needed.”

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