Historic Bridges in Texas: The Post-War Years

Bridges in Texas built after World War II represent a rich example of important innovations by renowned Texas bridge designers. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Texas Historical Commission (THC), and the Historic Bridge Foundation (HBF) have collaborated to identify these bridges, evaluate their historic significance, and develop a plan to manage them.

How were significant bridges identified?

Texas retains approximately 15,000 bridges built between 1945 and 1965. Over the past several years, TxDOT researched these bridges, interviewed retired bridge engineers, and evaluated the bridges for National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) significance. TxDOT finalized NRHP eligibility determinations, and the THC and HBF concurred that more than 100 of the post-1945 bridges are eligible for listing on the NRHP for their historical and engineering significance.
Why are these bridges historically significant?
These bridges can be historically significant for a range of reasons including:
Association with important post-World War II highway programs
Early use of newly developed bridge types or construction materials
Award-winning design or design by an important bridge engineer

How will TxDOT manage these historic bridges?

TxDOT, the THC, and the HBF have established a treatment plan for these 100-plus historic bridges. This plan includes dividing the bridges into three groups based on their historic and/or engineering significance. This approach would dictate the type of regulatory compliance and mitigation that TxDOT would be required to complete if any future projects would result in adverse effects to the bridges. These three groups are:
Group I: Bridges requiring TxDOT’s full compliance and mitigation under federal law
Group II: Bridges receiving programmatic mitigation under this public involvement effort, and no further mitigation is required under federal law
Group III: Bridges for which existing documentation is sufficient mitigation for any future adverse effects

What happens now?

TxDOT, THC, and the HBF want your opinion on the identified post-1945 historic bridges and the proposed treatment approach. Please complete the comment cards available at this open house or visit the TxDOT or THC websites below to email a comment. We look forward to hearing from you!

Want more information?

Please click here to view a detailed presentation about post-war historic bridges in Texas.

TxDOT’s website: http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/studies/statewide/historic-bridges.html
THC’s website: http://www.thc.state.tx.us/learn/historic-bridges-texas
Contact: TxDOT environmental consultant, Maryellen Russo 512-264-1095 or mrusso @ blantonassociates.com

Historic Bridge Foundation Facebook Page Launched

The Historic Bridge Foundation is proud to announce it now has a new Facebook page. At this time, we plan to feature a monthly “Focus Bridge” on the Facebook page, which will include a description of the bridge and why it is of interest to the Historic Bridge Foundation. Each Focus Bridge will be posted as a photo gallery which will contain photos and other media relating to the bridge.

The Facebook page can be viewed at the following address: facebook.com/historicbridgefoundation and we invite you to “Like” the page to show your support.

Call for Papers for the Savannah Preserving The Historic Road Conference

Reminder that the Call for Papers for the Savannah PTHR Conference is Due By January 31, 2014!

Plan to attend the Ninth Biennial Preserving the Historic Road Conference in Savannah, Georgia, September 26-28, 2014. The local planning committee is putting together an exciting program including tours of Southeast Coastal Roads and of Savannah’s historic paving materials, a welcoming event at the Savannah History Museum, and a Low Country Boil at the historic Tybee Island Lighthouse. Details will be forthcoming on the conference website.

Conference Hotel: Embassy Suites Savannah

Call for Papers: If you are interested in presenting a paper at Preserving the Historic Road 2014, abstracts are now being accepted. The deadline for paper abstracts is January 31, 2014. For more information and details on submitting an abstract, visit us: http://historicroads.org/

Please share with your colleagues and plan to join us in Savannah!

Every Bridge Tells a Story

Along the banks of Bayou Teche in the heart of Cajun country sits a 1938 rim-bearing swing bridge.  Misunderstood by some, but loved by others, the demise of this special bridge was imminent until the Historic Bridge Foundation received a telephone call in the spring of 2007.  Despite his tears and my difficulty understanding his strong Cajun accent, the gentleman on the other end of the call was able to explain the story of the bridge and its importance to the history of sugarcane farming and the community where it stands.  As I listened, I began to realize that a determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places had not been completed and that several federal procedures were not being followed.

Thus began the saga of the Vida Shaw Swing Bridge.  Thanks to a team of dedicated people and a few miracles, the bridge stands today.  Although its final fate is still unknown, the bridge is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the state level of significance.  The federal Section 106 process continues.  And a proud Louisiana gentleman continues to take his morning walk and gaze, at least for now, upon a noble bridge that is part of his heritage, and part of the story that defines Iberia Parish, Louisiana.

In many ways, that conversation was a pivotal moment for the Historic Bridge Foundation.  We were beginning to expand our original work beyond Texas to the other 49 states and were learning more about the importance of grassroots support.  As executive director, I was well aware that it “takes a village” to save a bridge, but not until that conversation on an early April morning did I truly understand how deeply a person or a community could love and find their identity in a historic bridge.

Saving a historic bridge is frequently a complicated and time-consuming process.  Federal procedures are in place to help us save bridges, but the ways in which these federal rules and regulations are implemented seem to vary from state to state.  And then there is the issue of money.  Many times federal money is available.  Sometimes state and/or local funds can be found.  But regardless of the money source, replacement is almost always seen as the cheaper, and thus, best route.  What is lost in the calculated costs of replacing or rehabilitating a historic bridge is the intrinsic value of the bridge itself.  Across our country we devote million of dollars to the preservation of buildings, schools, and other cultural and historic landmarks.  Often, however, when a community takes inventory of their historic properties, the local historic bridge fails to make the list.  Somehow we must elevate the importance of our historic bridges in the stories that identify the communities of our nation and say “this bridge is part of who we are and it must be saved.”

The Historic Bridge Foundation exists to help individuals and communities pay tribute to their heritage by providing education about the importance of historic bridges and by joining forces to save these engineering landmarks.  We invite you to contact us and tell us your story so we can work together to find solutions that will insure that the historic bridge in your community will have a place in the stories yet to come.

Kitty Henderson, Executive Director

Historians and residents preserve historic bridge in Collin County, Texas

A historic stone-and-brick bridge built by the Houston and Central Texas Railroad company in 1872 in Collin County, Texas has been Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and preservation work is planned for this historic bridge. Read more here: www.pegasusnews.com/news/2012/aug/15/historians-preserve-historic-bridge-highway-5-over/

This historic stone-and-brick bridge was built by the Houston and Central Texas Railroad company in 1872.

In Appreciation

The Historic Bridge Foundation thanks Jim Cooper for his service to the Foundation as board member and president. In the above photo, board member Vern Mesler (right) presents Jim Cooper (left) with an appreciation plaque during the 2012 Iron & Steel Preservation Conference at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

Historic Bridges of Yosemite Valley Placed On 2012 List of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Yosemite National Park is one of America’s most beautiful and cherished national parks, and three beautiful concrete bridges with stone facing constructed from 1928-1932 and crossing the Merced River have been both functional and beautiful elements of the park since their construction. However their future is now threatened by short-sighted demolition plans. In response to this threat to the historic bridges, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has included the Bridges of Yosemite Valley this year as one of their annual listings of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America. Click here to view the official listing on the National Trust website. The source of this demolition threat is the development of a comprehensive management plan for the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. The plan needlessly calls for the demolition of these historic bridges. Details about the Merced River Plan are available at the official website.

Rivet Demonstration Part of Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Celebration

As the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco turns 75 this year, a celebration was held to honor the bridge. Among the many events that were part of the celebration was a demonstration of heating and driving rivets. Rivets were the type of fastener used to assemble the parts of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as most metal bridges built before 1970. Riveting is not used in bridge construction anymore except in historic bridge restoration work. The rivet demonstration was put on by Vern Mesler, who is a board member of the Historic Bridge Foundation. Click here to view a television news story that provides details of the rivet demonstration.


Students Attend Iron & Steel Preservation Conference With Scholarships Funded By Historic Bridge Foundation

Two college students were able to attend the 2012 Iron & Steel Preservation Conference at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan with scholarships funded by the Historic Bridge Foundation. The recipients of the scholarships were David Trayte, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Andrew Evick, a student at the University of Vermont.

From left to right: Dr. Jim Cooper (Historic Bridge Foundation), David Trayte, (Savannah College of Art and Design), Dr. Brent Knight (Lansing Community College President), Andrew Evick (University of Vermont), and Nan Jackson (Lansing Community College).

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