The Rainbow Bridge over the Neches River re-opened for two-lane traffic Monday after workmen finished a $26.5 million project to repair and repaint the 1.5-mile long bridge that first opened in 1938.

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Both lanes of the Rainbow Bridge re-opened for use Monday, marking the end of a $26.5 million update by the Texas Department of Transportation that began in January 2014.

Workers had been removing rust, doing maintenance and repainting the bridge that first opened in 1938 as the tallest bridge in the South.

It was last refurbished in 1992, a year after the opening of the adjoining Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Sarah Dupre, TxDOT public information officer, said Tuesday that while the southbound traffic over the nearly 80-year-old Rainbow Bridge was open, the adjacent northbound Veterans Memorial Bridge was limited to one lane of traffic while TxDOT workers restriped the pavement, a project that might not be finished until Wednesday.

While work on the Rainbow Bridge was ongoing, TxDOT striped narrower lanes on the Veterans Memorial Bridge to allow two lanes of northbound traffic and one for southbound traffic.

The Rainbow Bridge was open to one lane of southbound traffic occasionally during the time work was going on.

Before the Rainbow Bridge was built, traffic crossed the Neches River between Port Arthur and Bridge City on a ferry that carried just a dozen autos.

In November 1934, Gov. Miriam A. “Pappy” Ferguson signed into law a bill approving construction of the bridge.

It cost $3 million then – about $50 million in today’s dollars. The cost was shared by TxDOT and the U.S. Public Works Administration.

Work began in early 1936. Work began in early 1936. More than 11,000 tons of steel, 31,000 cubic yards of concrete, 125,000 board feet of lumber and 19,000 gallons of paint went into the effort. Six workers died.

The bridge was dedicated Sept. 8, 1938.