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The Wirtz Dam Bridge could be completed as early as 2027, according to Burnet County Judge James Oakley.

“Don’t hold me to it, but about three years or so from today, hopefully, we will be looking at getting real close to driving over it,” Oakley said. 

Oakley and Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery gave a project update to the Cottonwood Shores City Council on Thursday, March 21.

The $35 million bridge to connect Cottonwood Shores to Granite Shoals over Lake Marble Falls has been in the making for almost 50 years.

“It was never a new idea,” Oakley said. “When I was elected in 1998 and took office in 1999 as your commissioner, it was brought to me as a project to get behind, and I did.”

The county put the bridge on the “front burner” due to growing traffic congestion in Marble Falls.

“When you have high blood pressure, in this case in the form of traffic, this is the way to add an artery to it so that it dilutes some of that pressure,” Oakley said.

The bridge would also shorten emergency response times in the area. The judge referenced the October 2023 fire at First Street Plaza in Marble Falls, which closed the U.S. 281 bridge for hours.

“If (the Wirtz Dam) bridge would have been here, you’d have had an alternative route,” he said.

James Oakley, Joe Don Dockery
Burnet County Judge James Oakley (left) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery presented an update on the Wirtz Dam Bridge project to the Cottonwood Shores City Council on March 21, 2024. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Texas Department of Transportation is putting the money behind the project.

“It’s been funded through TxDOT, which is your gas tax dollars not local dollars,” Oakley said.

He lauded Lower Colorado River Authority General Manager Phil Wilson for his continued support of the proposed bridge. The LCRA manages the Highland Lakes.

“He’s been a huge advocate for this project because he thinks regionally and deep into the crystal ball,” Oakley said.

Burnet County will rely on the LCRA to lower Lake Marble Falls for eight to 12 weeks in the early fall of 2025 to accommodate the bridge’s construction.

“You wouldn’t want to do it in the summer because recreation is out on the lake, right?” Oakley said. “You wouldn’t want to do it in the winter, either, because you never know when you’re going to have another ‘snow-clypse’ and need power during that time. Fall is really the best time.”

During the Cottonwood Shores meeting, Councilor Roger Wayson laid out his issues with the project.

“I worked for TxDOT for 15 years, and this doesn’t seem to be following the exact path,” he said. “Usually, there’s a traffic study and an environmental study before you go to final design. I was told we’d see those things, and we haven’t seen them.”

Wayson is specifically concerned over the bridge’s impacts on the city’s nature preserve.

“It’s important to us because you’re passing our nature reserve, which is going to increase (noise) by about 15 (decibels) from what it is right now,” he said.

Oakley said the project follows TxDOT standards.

“There are no shortcuts involved,” he said. “This is federal money involved with this, so you can bet everything is being done the way it’s supposed to be.”

nathan@thepicayune.com

1 thought on “Wirtz Dam Bridge may be up by 2027

  1. Might want to recheck the date that is quoted. According to the chart that’s available at TXdot they have the timeline at 2028 not 27.

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