PHOTO: Bridge City celebrated the reopening of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge on Friday morning, August 14. The event was opened to the public with nearly 100 in attendance. The event was hosted by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce. After nearly two years with the project, the bridge has undergone a $2.55 million face lift and had restored controls added to the wheelhouse for opening and closing the bridge. The bridge was named to the National Register of Historical Places in Texas on May 10, 2010 as one of only two swing bridges in the state. RECORD PHOTO: David Ball

David Ball – For The Record

The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge will now span the past, present and the future.

Furthermore, if it wasn’t for the bridge, there may had not been a Bridge City since it connected the surrounding communities together.

There was a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge, on Friday morning, August 14. The event was opened to the public with nearly 100 in attendance. The event was hosted by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.

The ceremony took place at the south end of the bridge. There was also an operational demonstration of the bridge.

Traffic should start moving over the swing bridge by Monday, August 17, according to Sarah Dupre, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation. The project took a little longer than planned.

Mayor Kirk Roccaforte cut the ribbon at the ceremony. He said it was an exciting day.

“I’m really glad to see it opened and people around town are glad too,” he said.

Roccaforte said after work is completed, the Cow Bayou Overpass Bridge will be returned to normal an help with the traffic flow.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time,” he said.

After nearly two years with the project, the bridge has undergone a $2.55 million face lift and had restored controls added to the wheelhouse for opening and closing the bridge.

The bridge was named to the National Register of Historical Places in Texas on May 10, 2010 as one of only two swing bridges in the state.

John Banken, Orange County Precinct 3 commissioner, also said he was glad to see the bridge open.

“It needed to be opened. It needed to be done,” he said.

Banken said the walkway that was added to the bridge will be safer for pedestrians to cross.

He added he’s looking forward to work to start on the East Roundbunch Swing Bridge as well. It is projected to take a year-and-a-half to complete at a cost of several millions dollars.

Tucker Ferguson, TxDOT district engineer, said the old bridge structure for the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge was taken off and refurbished.

The historical features were kept intact such as new components being built to exactly match the old ones. For instance, the electrical components that couldn’t be refurbished had a replica made of them.

Ferguson also thanked the community for their support.

He said anytime roadwork causes disruptions for the community TxDOT appreciates everyone’s patience while they’re waiting for the end-product. It will take a couple of weeks to complete the work on the Cow Bayou Overhead Bridge and the original configuration of traffic returned to.

Dupre said the goal is to complete everything before school starts on August 24.

“It was well worth it,” Ferguson said.

It was reported in the July 15 edition of The Record, The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge project is on time and on target with less than a year to complete according to Sarah Dupre, Texas Department of Transportation public information officer.

Dupre said work then was currently being done in the fender system- an underwater guardrail that protects the bridge from boats ramming into it. Crews also completed seven out of 12 deck spans which are the portions of the bridge driven on, she explained.

“We will continue to replace the fender system and to have the deck spans poured,” Dupre said.

Fifty percent of the turn mechanism has also been installed or ordered to make the machinery up to date at that time point.

In a prior Record article, it was reported phase two of the rehabilitation and historic preservation of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge started on January 31, 2014. Texas Department of Transportation officials then made plans on future lane closures and re-routing traffic.

The $9.5 million project covered 0.991 miles and was scheduled to take 476 working days to complete. Workers made repairs while keeping the bridge, the control building and other parts historically accurate. They used new and the still working old parts to restore the control desk while the new building 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 National Register 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.

TxDOT re-striped the lanes on the roadway and made the Cow Bayou Overpass Bridge into four lanes of traffic for the more than 30,000 vehicles traveling through the area on a daily basis. Each lane is 9 to 10 feet wide. Two lanes of traffic will travel south while the other two lanes are northbound. No bicycle or pedestrian traffic is allowed on the swing bridge or the Cow Bayou Overpass Bridge.