Historic bridge work begins Thursday
The Cow Bayou swing bridge will be restored to its original pre-World War II condition, but first, drivers are going to have to take a detour.
Beginning Thursday the 24th, the old bridge, which now takes travelers north on Texas 87, from Bridge City toward Orange, will be closed at night. The closing will be for the beginning of the restoration by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Eventually, the department will re-install red-green signal lights on the bridge, plus the swing arms to stop traffic, and the small control booth for the bridge tender, said Clark Slacum, local engineer for the transportation department.
And as construction is progressing, the local preservation group is working to get the bridge listed with the National Registry of Historic Bridges. The Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation formed March 1, 2007, after TxDot announced plans to begin replacing the bridge with a taller, more modern structure.
Bridge City was once the small community of Prairie View, and took its name from the Cow Bayou Bridge and the Rainbow Bridge, which opened in 1938. The swing bridge on the then-new Hwy. 87 was dedicated in 1941.
Slacum said the contractor for the swing bridge project will close the bridge from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. for about eight nights. Traffic traveling from Bridge City and Port Arthur during those hours will be re-routed west to FM 1442 (Roundbunch Road), then to FM 408, which runs into Hwy. 105 at Orangefield. Travelers then will reach Hwy. 62 and can go back to Hwy. 87, if needed.
Plans called for the detours to take place in January, Slacum said. But the contractor had to get custom-made, curved armor joints for the bridge’s surface. The restoration next week will include the contractor sawing across the bridge to remove the old metal armor joints from the concrete. Then, installing the new joints, and putting in new concrete.
Some of the removal of the concrete will leave holes, so for the daytime traffic, the holes will be covered with thick iron plates.
“We’re hoping people slow down,” Slacum said.
The swing bridge hasn’t been opened much in the past 30 years. The most recent times included twice for a yacht, and once after Hurricane Rita to let a utility boat go up the bayou, Slacum said. The Bridge City end of the bridge has shifted so much through the years that the highway department has to pour water on joints so they will cool and contract to allow the bridge to open, he said.
By the time the restoration is finished, the movable joints and the small engine that runs the opening and closing mechanisms will be in working order.
The Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation has hired cultural resources specialist Anna Mod from SWCA Environmental Consultants of Houston. Mod is researching and documenting the history of the bridge to acquire the listing in the National Registry. The group wants to have the history finished by Aug. 6 so the Texas Historic Commission can review the work.
Now, the preservation group is looking for donations to help pay the $5,000 to pay the researcher-consultant.
“We have been told there are funds available through the county, said Steve Culp, a member of the preservation committee. “If not, we’ll conduct fund-raisers and seek donations to help cover the cost of nominating the bridge to the National Registry.”
The group is looking for old photographs of the bridge, even if the bridge is in the background of a family picture.
“We believe there may be rare photographs tucked away in boxes somewhere that can help in the historic preservation of the Cow Bayou Bridge,” said committee member Butch Thurman. “We are asking anyone who may have old photographs or news clippings to lend them to us.”
The group will scan the loaned photographs into the computer and then return the originals. The photographs will be included in the documentation to acquire the listing with the National Registry.
For more information on how to submit photographs, negatives, and drawings contact Mark Dunn at 409-735-7183 or Beverly Perry at 409-738-3000. They may also be dropped off at the Bridge City Historical Museum at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce, 409-735-5671. Images can be mailed to: Bridge City Citizens For Historic Preservation, No. 3 Professional Park, Bridge City, Tx. 77611. All images will be scanned and promptly returned to the owner. The group is asking for actual images rather than photo copies. For other questions or comments email: firstname.lastname@example.org