STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
Of all the projects under the Texas Department of Transportation’s umbrella, replacing the RR 2900 bridge will be the only one going at a 24/7 pace until completion.
“With an emergency declaration, and a large number of TxDOT personnel, we were able to move at warp speed,” said Austin District engineer Terry McCoy during a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 9 on the north side RR 2900 in Kingsland.
The projected $17.3 million bridge is expected to be complete by April 2019 to again serve the nearly 5,600 vehicles per day that used the old bridge, which was destroyed by historic flooding on Oct. 16.
“We know construction will be noisy,” McCoy said, “but we hope to get this important work done as quickly as possible to bring this community back together.”
Using sonar, pieces of the old bridge have been found on the bottom of Lake LBJ within short distances of the crossing and will be retrieved at a later date.
Llano County Judge Mary Cunningham said the weeks following the flood were stressful for everyone and residents for their patience.
“Everyone is eager to return to normalcy,” she said. “No one more than the commissioners court.”
Before they do, Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke reflected on the response she saw to the flood.
“One thing became clear, and it was the strength of our county, the strength of our community, and the resiliency that we have had over the last several weeks,” Raschke said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones, whose constituents reside on the south side of the Llano River, commended TxDOT on its expediency.
“Frankly, I’m surprised, amazed, and impressed of the speed in which TxDOT have moved forward in planning and the contracting, and now you see the construction of this bridge,” Jones said.
Representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, and state Sen. Dawn Buckingham attended the ceremony, but did not speak.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Mike Sandoval thanked local, state, and national representatives who visited the area days after the flooding and have offered their help in the following weeks.
“Every one of them have been supportive of us,” Sandoval said.
The 1,200-foot bridge will be built 4½ feet higher in the middle than at the ends. It will have 12-foot lanes, 6-foot shoulders, and a 6-foot sidewalk. Lighting will illuminate the bridge and water below.
After demolition and removal of the remaining pieces of the old bridge, barges will be placed at either side of the Llano River and crews from contractor Capital Excavation Co. of Buda will drill through the silt and rock and into the granite.
“And they will drill twenty-four hours a day, wind or no wind, seven days a week until the barges meet in the middle,” McCoy said.
Columns then will be placed, beams will be set, and the deck will be completed.
“Construction is underway, and we look forward to seeing you all at the ribbon-cutting in about six months,” McCoy said in conclusion.