Suspension Bridge

People walk and ride bikes at the Waco Suspension Bridge, which is up for a major renovation.

Waco City Council members said Tuesday they’re willing to spend what it takes to make the Waco Suspension Bridge last another couple of centuries.

Getting it into that kind of shape will cost $5.6 million over the next 10 years, a consultant told the council. But council members said the 147-year-old structure needs to be preserved for future generations, and the work needs to be done right.

“I feel like it’s worth investing in,” Councilman John Kinnaird said.

The engineering consultant, Patrick Sparks, spent months studying the bridge and making recommendations based on his experience on more than a dozen historic bridges.

“Our design approach would be to give it another whole life,” Sparks said. “Whatever we do needs to reduce your annual maintenance costs.”

The bridge is still safe for foot traffic, but the loads should be limited to 3,000 people until the work is completed, he said.

He said he’s concerned about the bridge’s cables, which consist of six bundles of 25 wires each. Enough of the wires have become deformed that the cable’s load capacity is reduced by one-sixth, Sparks said.

“They are not unsafe at this time, but they have lost a significant amount of capacity,” he said.

In addition, he’s concerned about structural cracks in the double-arched towers that hold up the bridge, and bricks in the anchor houses that are crumbling because of impurities in the original clay.

The city’s 2017-18 budget includes $500,000 in new funding and $132,000 in existing fund balance to repair the wooden decking, treat some of the steel supports and rehabilitate anchor houses on the bridge.

City parks officials proposed spending $580,000 the following year to repair cracks in the supporting towers and repair their foundations, among other work.

In 2021-22, the city would spend $1.7 million to remove the aging wooden decking and replace it with impermeable concrete, possibly with planks above it. The steel supports under the decking would also be rehabilitated.

The final phase, in 2026-27, would use $2.7 million to replace anchor rods and all the cables, which would involve putting a temporary support structure in the middle of the river.

Despite the high price tag, Kinnaird and Mayor Kyle Deaver said that they would be willing to consider stepping up the work to get it done in less than a decade.

“My concern is that if phase 4 is in 10 years, the price could be double,” Deaver said. “But we also have lots of other priorities.”

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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