With the contract for the viaduct project set to go out for bid in June, the Waxahachie City Council approved three related agreements with the Texas Department of Transportation during its meeting Monday. One of those ensures the preservation of a portion of the concrete railing from the historic structure.
Due to its deteriorating condition, the two-lane, single structure viaduct will be replaced with two bridges to form a couplet system. One bridge will handle northbound traffic, with the other accommodating southbound traffic.
City Manager Michael Scott said the agreements with TxDOT cover bridge aesthetic improvements, environmental (historical) mitigation and utility relocations.
“The bridge aesthetic improvements include the city requesting ‘betterments’ to the design of the replacement bridge as well as the new couplet bridge to be erected,” Scott wrote in a memo. “These improvements include an enhanced bridge railing that is in keeping with the existing bridge railing look, use of a wrought iron look for required safety fencing above the railroad right of way and the installation of historic-style lighting across the bridge structure.”
The enhancements selections were vetted through a viaduct working group and have been incorporated in the TxDOT bridge designs for bidding, Scott said, noting the cost to the city for the upgrades is $206,271.
The viaduct, which was built in 1931, has many documented structural deficiencies, according to TxDOT’s website. Surveys of the viaduct from January 1998, July 2002 and July 2004 show that chloride contamination from deicing salts has led to corrosion within the superstructure. Data has also shown it wouldn’t be feasible to widen or reconstruct that superstructure.
The environmental mitigation agreement addresses the state’s requirement that it offset the removal of the historic viaduct.
“After many years in attempting to save the aging structure, it was determined that the bridge needed to be demolished and replaced,” Scott said. “In such a project, TxDOT, in coordination with both the Texas Historical Commission and their in-house Section 106 review team, determine an appropriate element to include in the project to ‘offset’ the loss of the asset.
“In this case, informational panels are being designed that will pay respect to the history of the bridge and the broader transportation significance Waxahachie’s history boasts of,” he said.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is a federal law, the Texas Historical Commission’s website notes. Planners working on projects using federal funds, licenses or permits must consult with potentially interested parties, including a state’s historic preservation officer, to identify historic properties potentially affected by the undertaking and avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effect on them.
Any time the state has a project that jeopardizes a vital asset, it has to make amends for that with some kind of offset, Scott said. In this case, the offset involves display panels showcasing the bridge’s history that will be a part of the Railyard Park amphitheater under construction. Sections of the viaduct’s railing also will be incorporated into the park display.
The city will pay upfront the $60,000 cost of the display but will be reimbursed fully by TxDOT. Once completed, the upkeep of the display panels and the railing will be the city’s responsibility.
The agreements between the city and TxDOT also cover the relocation of city utility lines from the project area, with the city only paying for a portion of the relocations within TxDOT’s rights of way. The cost to relocate utility lines within the city’s right of way will be borne by TxDOT. The estimated cost of this portion of the project, inclusive of mobilization and contingency estimates, is $1,429, 802.10.