A narrow, two-lane concrete bridge across the Medina River on English Crossing Road that is regularly shut down during floods is in line for a nearly $1 million renovation that could begin in early 2022, Texas Department of Transportation officials told Bandera County commissioners at their Thursday, June 11, meeting.
State officials said the bridge project has been accepted as part of TxDOT’s Off System Bridge Program for improvements on roads that are not part of the state highway system. A report on the project said the heavily travelled bridge received a Sufficiency Rating of 66.2, which made it eligible for state and federally funded rehabilitation.
But officials said it also qualified for a more extensive replacement because of how long a detour area motorists face when the bridge is down because of flooding.
TxDOT officials said the bridge, a multi-box culvert structure that was constructed in 1980, and its approaches are targeted for replacement under the project, but final design of the improvements has not been completed so exactly what the finished product will look like was unavailable last week.
The cost of the project was estimated at just over $952,658, with 80 percent of the funds coming from federal sources, 10 percent from the state and 10 percent from local sources.
Initial estimates indicate it could be ready to begin construction in January 2022.
News of the project drew praise from county commissioners, who said it has been a priority capital improvement for more than a decade because of how many people in the southeastern end of the county use the bridge and how much delay they face when flooding closes the bridge and they have to take a long detour through Bandera to gain access to Highway 16 South into San Antonio and other area roadways.
Safety issues also arise when the bridge is closed because fire trucks and ambulances have to take long detours to reach certain areas, officials said.
“That was a real surprise for me to see we might get it,” said County Commissioner Jody Rutherford, whose precinct includes the English Crossing bridge and who made a priority of getting the bridge upgraded when he first ran for office. “I was not sure in my lifetime I’d see funding for it.”
He said one traffic study showed the bridge in the Bandera Falls area near the point where the river dumps into Medina Lake handled 2,200 vehicles a day. Officials said when heavy rains hit the area, the bridge can be flooded on and off for weeks.
Bandera County Judge Richard Evans said he too was “very happy we’re finally going to get this addressed.”
He expected that the bridge would be raised, though how much was uncertain, and that the traffic handling capacity of the bridge would be increased as a result of the upgrade.
“It’s a very good opportunity for the county,” said Commissioner Bobby Harris.
Judge Evans said the county would not be able to afford a $1 million improvement project for the upgrade by itself but should not have much trouble coming up with the nearly $96,876 in matching funds required by the state.
Improvements the county pays for at other river crossings in the area could be used as part of the matching funds due from the county, he said.
Commissioners needed to take no action on the project last week, but state officials said they needed to obtain some documentation about the bridge from the county to get the initiative going.
The county engineer, road superintendent and County Commissioner Bruce Eliker were appointed as liaisons with the state in the ongoing project.