Bridge Renovation

Workmen from Ellis-McGinnis Construction Co. use a crane to lift and move a historic Worley bridge that crosses the San Gabriel River in Milam County. The bridge has been closed since April 2011.

CAMERON — Renovation of the 102-year-old steel truss bridge over the San Gabriel River on County Road 428 off FM 908 near Thorndale in Milam County is in progress.

The Ellis-McGinnis Construction Co. of Bruceville-Eddy used a 350-ton crane to move the 34,000-pound Worley bridge off its supports and pilings Wednesday morning, lift it overhead and swing it over one pasture to an adjacent field, where Texas Department of Transportation bridge design engineer Jamie Griffin and Ellis-McGinnis project engineer Jim Skillett will inspect it to determine what additional work needs to be done before the renovation project resumes this week.

The $1.27 million project, started Oct. 28, is expected to be completed in May or June.

The decking and stringers were removed from the 136-foot-long bridge before it was moved to lighten the load, said Bob McGinnis, a partner in the construction firm with his brothers, Dave and Mike.

The bridge had to be cut free from supports before it could be moved.

Once the bridge has been sandblasted, a primer applied, painted, dismantled and restored, new decking and stringers will be installed after the bridge is returned to its location over the San Gabriel River and placed on new pilings.

“You have to take your time, work slow, be careful,” Bob McGinnis said when moving a bridge. “We have moved 20, 30 bridges. It takes a lot of preparation. Take your time when you move it. We always have to pick them up. Sometimes it’s not but a couple of inches to work on one.

“We had one in San Saba we had to pick up and move 5 feet. It’s more unusual to pick one up like this and swing it this far. It will go back in just like it came out. We have to wait until the bridge is in place to replace the stringers and deck because they would double the weight.”

Ellis-McGinnis is working on a 70-foot-long road bridge converted into a walking bridge, which will be used on a hike-and-bike trail at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton.

The most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 of 607,380 bridges throughout the United States were classified as structurally deficient.

The CR 428 bridge is one of nine of those bridges in Milam County and the oldest of the nine, being constructed in 1911.

TxDOT condemned the bridge in April 2011 after it was inspected by engineers, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Muegge said, adding that the bridge topped the list of worst bridges in the county.

Milam County and the state will each pay for 10 percent of the bridge renovation’s cost and federal money will cover the other 80 percent.

The county’s cost is covered by the installation of three drainage culverts or equivalent match projects.

CR 428 has been closed to traffic since the county was ordered to shut it down in 2011.

Once the bridge is returned to its original site, the road and bridge will be reopened to traffic, but the bridge will have a lighter load rating.

“I’m glad it’s happening so we can get this behind us,” Muegge said. “A lot of people have been waiting on this.”

“I never thought I would see it in my lifetime and here it is,” said Kit Worley, who owns land in the area, including Apache Pass.

The bridge became known as the Worley Bridge after Kit’s grandfather, F.W. Worley, settled in the area in the 1800s and donated the land to the county to build the bridge at Apache Pass, Kit Worley said.

“I wonder what it will be like 100 years from now,” he said. “I am probably the sole person in history who has crossed that bridge the most. I have been here the longest. My father and grandfather didn’t cross it that much back in their time. I crossed it sometimes 10 or 20 times a day.”

“I hope it will last another 100 years,” Kit’s wife, Linda, said. “It’s awesome.”

Dave McGinnis called the Worley bridge project interesting.

“It pays the bills,” he said. “They don’t come around very often, particularly one of this scope where you actually move the bridge, rebuild it and put it back. We may do one a year. I think they’re worth salvaging and keeping. The bridges have historic significance.”

The other structurally deficient bridges in the county are:

  • Hart Creek over County Road 258, off FM 979, built in 1960; no current plans for replacement by TxDOT.
  • Little Pond Creek, over CR 273, off FM 979, built in 1985; no current plans for replacement by TxDOT.
  • Donahoe Creek, over CR 405, off 1915, built in 1940; replaced by TxDOT in June.
  • Brushy Creek Relief, over CR 440, south of U.S. 79, built in 1991; scheduled for a summer 2016 replacement contract by TxDOT.
  • Cow Creek, over FM 485, southeast of FM 2269, built in 1947; scheduled for a spring 2017 replacement contract.
  • Brushy Creek over FM 908, north of U.S. 79, built in 1956; no current plans for replacement
  • Brushy Creek Relief No. 2 over U.S. 79, east of FM 486, built in 1996; scheduled for a spring 2014 maintenance repair contract.
  • Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, over U.S. 79, east of Texas 36, built in 1989; scheduled for a spring 2014 maintenance repair contract.

“All bridges currently open to traffic are considered safe,” said Bob Colwell, TxDOT spokesman at the Bryan District office of the bridges. “Some bridges have load postings and the load limits on the signs need to be followed for safe crossing of the posted bridge.”