Washington Avenue bridge in downtown Waco expected to reopen soon

Workers put the finishing touches on the Washington Avenue bridge, which has been beefed up to handle two-way traffic.

The $4.8 million renovation that is nearly complete on the Washington Avenue bridge is more than a face-lift.

The 109-year-old iron truss bridge has been beefed up to handle two-way traffic, providing a new connection from downtown to the Elm Street corridor.

City officials are hoping to open the bridge to foot traffic during the July 4 weekend, if guardrails on the 6-foot walkways can be completed by then. The bridge could open to motor traffic by early August, improving circulation between both sides of the Brazos River, said Norman Hogue, graduate engineer for the city.

“The primary purpose is providing relief to Franklin Avenue,” he said. “It gives a better connection between Washington and Elm streets.”

The Texas Department of Transportation began the renovation project in January 2009, using Jay-Reese Contractors of Austin. The project has come in on time and on budget, said Kirk Krause, assistant engineer for the department’s Waco-area office.

The project replaced railings and certain steel components of the truss, repaired rusted areas and replaced the concrete deck where cars drive.

The old paint was stripped and replaced with black paint, the original color of the historic bridge.

The 450-foot bridge is the longest and oldest single-span truss bridge still open to vehicle traffic in the United States. Because of its gradual weakening, the bridge in recent decades has been reduced to a one-lane, one-way bridge carrying traffic from East Waco to downtown.

The two-way configuration will help tie downtown with Elm Street, providing more business potential on the east side, said Laveda Brown, president of the Cen-Tex African-American Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re all excited about it,” Brown said. “The community wanted it two-way, and that was something we brought to the attention of the city.”

Sam Brown, who inherited Elm Street property from his father, Douglas Brown, said the bridge will make the area “much more inviting.”

He said it fits with the city’s soon-to-be-released Imagine Waco plan, which seeks to incorporate Elm Street into downtown revitalization.

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