The Twin Bridges over Lake Waco have become a double migraine for the Texas Department of Transportation, which is mulling how to proceed with repairs to the ’60s-era edifice that has more problems than first thought.
“When the bridge work will be completed, I really can’t say. We’re going through a re-evaluation process right now. Some things concern us,” TxDOT district engineer Stanley Swiatek said.
Work is wrapping up on the southbound bridge deck, but inspections have shown the condition of the northbound deck is worse than originally thought, Swiatek said. It could require a different approach than the mill and overlay the southbound deck needed, potentially adding time to the project. Weather has also slowed work at times.
Before the additional deck issues were uncovered, officials were expecting the project to wrap up by the fall if there were no more significant delays, but the timeline is now unclear.
“We may have to take a different approach,” Swiatek said Thursday, when rainfall pelted the area. “Right now, we’re also being held up by weather delays. Days like today are not conducive to working on bridges.”
Though the southbound deck is almost ready to take the two-way traffic now using the northbound bridge, there were hiccups in its resurfacing too, Swiatek said.
Crews were using a latex modified concrete. The material has advantages for use on bridges but it had not been used before in TxDOT’s Waco district or by the contractor for the project, he said.
The latex modified concrete is more sensitive to cold, moisture and other environmental factors as it is applied, and some sections had to be milled up and reapplied, he said. The contractor, J.D. Abrams, not TxDOT will be responsible for any additional costs related to those issues, Swiatek said.
“The project is not late, though the contractor has had a few issues with the new material adhering to the deck, the driving surface,” he said. “He took a couple of inches off the top, and there were some issues with the material sticking to the surface that was left. Some sections had to be replaced.”
Swiatek said the Highway 6 Twin Bridges were built with a different structure than would be used on a new bridge.
“That does not mean they are unsafe or unsound. This is not a matter of repairing the bridges, rather extending their life,” he said of the ongoing project.
He said there is no definitive answer for how much longer the bridges can continue to move traffic between the Speegleville area and Waco, but without the repairs, they would yield to wear and tear much sooner.
“And this is much less expensive than replacing the bridges,” he said.
The work includes installing 32 new piers to reinforce the 53-year-old bridges, which have seen no significant upgrades since they were built along with the current Lake Waco in 1964, TxDOT spokesman Kenneth Roberts said.
Swiatek said he has heard a limited number of complaints from the public, though there have been reports of congestion on or near the Twin Bridges during peak traffic times in the morning and evening.
“I’m catching phone calls from happy citizens about every day or two, and I know everybody’s getting frustrated,” TxDOT engineer Charles Smith said during a presentation to the Waco City Council earlier this month. “And I’m frustrated as well with what’s going on, but unfortunately that’s the nature of our business.”