Rainbow Bridge repairs still not finished; E. Roundbunch Bridge repairs slated to kick off soon
By Debby Schamber
For the Record
For those awaiting the completion of repairs on the Rainbow Bridge, they will have to wait just a little bit longer.
The repairs which began in January 2014 were slated to be completed by January 2017, but to due to inclement weather such as high humidity, wind and rain the new date for completion is March 31, 2017, according to Sarah Dupre, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
The total makeover of the Rainbow Bridge included making structural repairs in addition to stripping the old paint and applying new paint. The costs of the contract for the project was $26.6 million.
TxDot makes routine repairs on all bridges as they are deemed necessary. The last time the Rainbow Bridge had a comparable overall and “full blown maitenance” was 20 years ago, according to Dupre.
The next Bridge in Orange County slated for repairs is the swing bridge located on East Roundbunch in Bridge City. Most recently, the Cow Bayou Bridge underwent a major overhaul.
A swing bridge is a movable bridge which has as its’ primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring, usually at or near to the bridge’s center of gravity. This is about where the turning span can then pivot horizontally. Small swing bridges may only pivot at one end but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot.
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, according to archives.
In Jan. 2014, the rehabilitation and historic preservation of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge began. 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, control building and other parts historically accurate. During the restoration, new and used parts were implemented during the restoration process to restore the control desk in the new building to mimic the original structure.
The Rainbow Bridge, which was originally the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge, was completed in 1938 at a cost of $3 million. It began as a solution for clogged roads caused by Dryden Ferry traffic and a way to connect two cities. Seventy years later, it still has the tallest vertical span in Texas of 177 feet.
The following year construction began on the Cow Bayou Bridge which was 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.
Making history once again will be the bridge on East Roundbunch Road. The bridge was originally built in 1960. The total length of the bridge is 392 feet.
Going out for bids in February will be repairs for the East Roundbunch Bridge to where it too will be restored to be historically accurate. Bids will be accepted throughout the month. A short time after, TxDOT will award the contract. The project is expected to begin by early summer. The estimated length of time needed to complete the project is about 18 months at an estimated cost of $8.6 million.
The bridge will be for the most part historically accurate, but, there will be a few minor changes, according to Leslie Barras, founder of the Historic Orange Preservation Empowerment.
“It will basically look the same, but the steel grating will be replaced with concrete panels,” Barras said.
In addition, the bridge will be raised about two feet, it will be repainted, have new gates and control house. The bridge will be a center bearing swing bridge because of where the controls will be located. Although it will not be visible, there will be extensive structural and mechanical elements completed during the restoration project, Barras said.
Involved along the HOPE has been other groups who will oversee the project to ensure the historic preservation needs are met. They have been involved in the planning and their efforts will continue, Barras said.
According to Barras, when the bridge is completed a plaque marking the historical significance will be placed near the bridge.
“This is a very important project,” Barras said of the “rare” bridge.
This is not the first time the bridge has undergone repairs. According to Clark Slacum, of the Orange County 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 bridge was also damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008. 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.
“I want to commend TxDOT for rehabilitating the bridge instead of just rebuilding it,” Barras said.