Phase two of the rehabilitation and historic preservation of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge is set to begin with Texas Department of Transportation officials making plans on future lane closures and re-routing traffic.

The $9.5 million project will cover 0.991 miles and is scheduled to take 476 working days to complete. Workers will make repairs while keeping the bridge, the control building and other parts historically accurate. They will use new and the working old parts to restore the control desk while the new building will mimic the original structure.

The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge is one of only two remaining center pivot swing bridges of it’s kind remaining in Texas. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The Rainbow Bridge was listed to the N.R. in 1996.

It was history in the making when an estimated 3,000 people attended the 1941 dedication. The ribbon was cut by Miriam David, the daughter of Julis H. David, Sr., the president of the Orange Chamber of Commerce. The Bengal Guards of Orange and the Red Hussars of Port Arthur, musical marching bands from the two high schools, marched towards the Cow Bayou Bridge from opposite directions and met in the center of the span for the ribbon cutting.

The Rainbow Bridge, which was originally the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge, was completed in 1938. The following year construction began on the ‘Cow Bayou Bridge’, a swing bridge with an electric motor. Both bridges where marvels of American technology in the years leading into World War II, as they are today. The swing bridge at Cow Bayou was the final link in “Hug-The-Coast Highway” between Corpus Christ and Orange, which was at the time, the new Texas-87.

The swing bridge over Cow Bayou brought about the consolidation of the Prairie View and Winfree school districts to become Bridge City I.S.D. The bridge was a routine part of life in early Bridge City. Near it, community, commerce and industry flourished to become the City of Bridge City in 1970, according to Record archives.

The project will begin with TxDOT workers making lane closures on the swing bridge starting around February 5. There may be only one lane closed at a time from the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, for about two weeks. During this time, workers will change the flow of traffic to the other bridge.

TxDOT has plans to re-stripe the lanes on the roadway and make the Cow Bayou Overpass Bridge into four lanes of traffic for the more than 30,000 vehicles that are expected to travel through the area on a daily basis. Each lane will be 9 to 10 feet wide. Two lanes of traffic will travel south while the other two lanes will be northbound.

By about Feb. 15th, the changes should be in effect and no bicycle or pedestrian traffic will be allowed on the swing bridge or the Cow Bayou overpass bridge.

TxDOT officials suggest people take alternate routes into the area, such as, using FM 1442 to FM 408 or east Roundbunch to FM 1006 to continue to their destination. People should also consider the alternate routes if they think they may experience some problems crossing the Cow Bayou overpass bridge because of the narrow lanes of traffic.

The bridge on E. Roundbunch which leads to FM 1006 has recently had repairs done, too.

According to Clark Slacum, with the Road and Bridge Department, the bridge was damaged, which impacted the fender system when it was struck by a barge. As a result, the $50,000 in repairs was paid by the barge company.

This was only a temporary fix. The county and TxDOT are developing a rehabilitation project. They will  decide whether the bridge will be replaced or repaired.

The bridge was under water as the storm surge entered the Bridge City area. As a result, the bridge electric motors were damaged from the salt water. The bridge already had issues because of its age, but those issues were made worse due to damages from salt water.

However, the project is not expected to begin until the 87 swing bridge project is complete, according to Slacum.