The orange barrels are in place, narrowing Waco’s Twin Bridges over Highway 6 to one lane in each direction. But where are the construction crews?
Local Texas Department of Transportation officials have gotten the question over recent weeks, and they have an answer: Look below.
That’s where crews with the construction firm J.D. Abrams are working daily on barges to install 32 new piers to reinforce the 53-year-old bridges.
“The frustration is that folks are not seeing it because it’s taking place underneath,” said Kenneth Roberts, TxDOT’s Waco district spokesman. “We recognize it’s difficult when traffic is backed up and everyone is trying to get to work on time.”
Roberts said lanes have remained closed because the pier work at times requires equipment on top of the bridge.
He said this is the first major renovation of the bridges since they were built along with the current Lake Waco in 1964.
“The bridges are sound,” he said. “By the same token, there’s aging that takes place, and we have seen a significant increase in traffic, which adds stress to the structure.”
The $8.8 million bridge renovation project has brought lane closures since it started last October, and the inconveniences will likely get worse before they get better.
Starting in about three weeks, a temporary crossover will shunt southbound traffic onto the northbound bridge, where traffic will become two-way for about a month. During that time, crews will pour a new concrete surface on the southbound bridge deck.
Later this summer, deck work will start on the northbound bridge, and all traffic will redirected onto the southbound bridge for another month.
After that, occasional delays are expected until the bridge project is completed in spring 2018.
The bridge renovation is part of a $14.4 million contract to improve 10 miles of Highway 6 through Waco.
Starting this week, crews will be resurfacing the highway between Bagby Avenue and Farm to Market Road 185, with occasional lane and ramp closures expected until the project is completed at month’s end.
Crews are working at night to minimize traffic impact.
Sandra Herinckx, owner of Rusty Star BBQ on FM 185 near Highway 6, said the lane closures have probably affected some of her lunchtime crowd that comes from the other side of the lake.
“We’re a really fast-serving restaurant where people can come and place their order and get back to work,” Herinckx said. “With the bridges slowing them up at lunch, it’s probably stopped some people from coming.”