McLennan County commissioners approved a $96,000 bid Tuesday to repair damages to Blue Bluff Road Bridge at almost double the originally expected cost.

Austin-based Beck-Reit & Sons Ltd. will make the repairs to the Precinct 2 bridge damaged by floods in May 2015.

The two-lane bridge near the Brazos River, about a mile south of West Frederick Street southwest of Riesel, will close for about a month for the repairs, Interim County Engineer Luke Lammert said. The county has hired the company on several projects, according to county documents.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency determined in 2015 the bridge built in 1974 needs about $50,000 in repairs to flood damage, Precinct 2 administrative assistant Patricia Chisolm said.

FEMA agreed to pay 75 percent of the cost, but when the project went to bid in November 2016, it came back at $96,000. Erosion under the 60-foot bridge has continued since the initial assessment, increasing the amount of work needed, Chisolm said.

County leaders are working with FEMA to see if the agency will update its funding to cover the more recent damage. However, if FEMA sticks to its initial $50,000, the county has money to cover the full cost, Chisolm said. Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson set aside $100,000 for the work, she said.

While the bridge remains safe to drive across, another big flood could change that, she said.

“Before that happens, let’s go ahead and be more proactive then reactive,” Chisolm said.

Lammert said the rock material used for erosion control has largely washed out, which exposed columns and revealed microcracking. He said the repair is fairly small, but much of the work is under the bridge. Large equipment won’t fit under the bridge, so much of the work will be done by hand, he said.

“It’s very specialized work to repair that microcracking,” Lammert said.

The rock erosion revealed a few other small problems that will be addressed during the work, he said.

The approaches to the bridge were reinforced in 2011.

Other county bridges

Several bridges throughout the county also will get attention this year.

Work is scheduled to start soon on a bridge on North Old Bethany Road crossing the South Fork of Cow Bayou, between North Old Bruceville Road and Mackey Ranch Road. The bridge was closed in July.

A bridge on Chisholm Trail at Tonk Creek near Crawford in Precinct 4 will close for replacement in the next month, and the South Czech Hall Road bridge in Precinct 3 will see work by spring. The South Czech Hall Road bridge collapsed after it suffered damage during flooding in 2015.

Lammert said Cottonwood Creek Bridge, at South 12th Street near Loop 340, also will be repaired soon. The bridge has been closed since June 2015 after rainwater washed away part of the structure.

There are 156 bridges in the county. Precinct 1 has 28, Precinct 2 has 35, Precinct 3 has 34, and Precinct 4 has 59.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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