County looks at bridge renovation
David Waxman of David Waxman Inc. addressed commissioners’ court in a special session Tuesday regarding the Cow Bayou swing bridge on East Roundbunch Road in Bridge City and the Ike recovery 2.2 project.
“We have our second round of disaster money. That swing bridge and the renovation thereof was included in round two,” said Waxman. “We have $3,867,417 that includes construction and engineering.”
Waxman said the more they listened to everyone and read reports it became clear that it would be far more advantageous to replace than repair the bridge. It was decided before they submitted the application they would meet with the General Land Office(GLO) and their staff and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to move towards a replacement rather than a repair. TxDOT would consider this a renovation and it would not lose the bridges’ eligibility for historical status.
“It appears that TxDOT will not agree to replace the bridge, but a renovation is a better term; quite a renovation,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose Monday. They will actually be replacing the part of the bridge that swings out. “This thing will be serviceable for another 50 years,” said Dubose.
The project would require closing the bridge until completion which has a required completion date of Dec. 31, 2015. John Dubose said it is an important bridge because it is part of the evacuation route and is used by people that work on Chemical Row.
“Things are looking extremely favorable,” said Waxman. “I know there are some rules of the road that are hard to deal with and it makes it difficult to do what we’re setting out to do.” Waxman said the language in the grant contract says rehabilitate or replace.
“TxDOT has a major role to play. This is no cheap project.” Waxman said the project would cost about $15.6 million. He said that’s about $915,000 less than what the county actually has. “Looking at all the numbers and everything that we can find, we have more than adequate funds to make our match to do whatever we’re called to do.” He said there were some geotechnical services and environmental services that will have to be dealt with. “We have more than enough funds to do whatever we’re called to do.” That would include specialized inspections and environmental requirements.
Waxman said one problem that may come up is that once the contract is signed TxDOT wants to be paid up front. Waxman said he believes that can be worked out. He said with TxDOT wanting to partner with the County and putting up so much money, the opportunity should not be passed up. “It’s a unique opportunity,” he said.
“So we’re getting a grant to match a grant?” asked Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose.
“That’s exactly right,” said Waxman.
Waxman said he realizes there’s some historic value with the swing bridge and there are specific things that need to be done to preserve it. If it was up to him, he would build a totally new bridge. “This is a unique example of a bad bridge,” said Waxman. “If it were up to me I’d build a different kind of bridge. I don’t have a problem with historical projects, but then, some things don’t need to be saved. But the opportunities here (to renovate the bridge) and I don’t think we’ll ever get another shot like this that somebody else will pick up the tab.”
He said the GLO has relaxed some of the regulations and are already issuing permits for the environmental studies.
Replacing the swing part of the bridge will have less impact on the environment than building a totally new bridge.
Waxman also asked the County to put up $13,750 for a grant application to get $275,000 in grant money for on-site sewer to help low income families solve their on-site sewer problems. He said by the time this money comes in it will almost be the next fiscal year so it’s not money that would be used this year.
John Dubose moved to accept the proposition. “I know this is a competitive grant and we have received it before and Joel was done well with it, it is a helpful thing.” He said it was a good way to help with noncompliance. It would provide funds to tie in to public utilities if available or provide on-site systems if not.
The motion passed.
pictured: County Commissioner Precinct 1 David Dubose