AUSTIN -- After a pedestrian bridge collapse last month at Florida International University sparked questions from the Austin City Council, the Public Works department has identified five bridges it says require major rehabilitation or replacement.
Those five bridges include:
1. Redbud Trail/Emmett Shelton bridge over Lady Bird Lake
2. Barton Springs Road bridge over Barton Creek
3. Delwau Lane bridge over Boggy Creek
4. William Cannon Drive Railroad Overpass
5. Slaughter Lane Railroad Overpass
According to a memo from the Public Works department, Austin has 434 bridges with spans longer than 20 feet. Following each TxDOT inspection every two years, the Public Works Department receives an inspection report, which includes a condition rating of those bridges, an assessment of the bridges and recommendations for enhancements and/or repairs.
Based on the 2016 TxDOT bridge report, 388 bridges in the City of Austin received a "good," "very good" or "excellent" sufficiency rating. Forty bridges received a "satisfactory" rating and six received a "fair" rating. Zero bridges received lower ratings, which range from "poor" to "failed."
The Public Works department explained that while the six bridges in “fair” condition have some deficiencies, they are not yet “structurally deficient” overall. This lower ranking is based on a number of outdated accommodations, but these bridges are not considered a safety hazard. These bridges will continue to receive routine inspection and maintenance.
Of the 40 that received a "satisfactory" rating, most received this ranking due to certain obsolete features. The bridge on Redbud Trail over Lady Bird Lake and the bridge on Barton Springs Road fell into this category.
The bridge on William Cannon and the bridge on Slaughter Lane over Union Pacific Rail Road both received "good" ratings.
The department noted that the Redbud Trail/Emmett Shelton, Barton Springs, and William Cannon Road bridges are all currently in preliminary engineering and will need additional funding for design and construction. The Delwau bridge and Slaughter Lane Railroad Overpass are not currently in the preliminary engineering phase and are without funding identified for that effort.
Public Works said it spends about $1 million annually from its operating budget on bridge maintenance and repairs. Staff have presented capital funding needs in several forums for these five bridges, including grant applications and the proposed 2018 Bond.
The Redbud Trail/Emmett Shelton Bridge would be the first of these bridges to be repaired or replaced if the city council and voters approve that bond, according to the Public Works Department.
Flood flows from Tom Miller Dam have worn the bridge down over the years, as well. A new bridge would keep the same number of lanes and address concerns about heavy trucks driving on it. It would also replace the current sidewalk facing Red Bud Isle Park with a wider one and add a bike lane facing the dam.
It's a change some Austinites welcome.
"That [sidewalk] is super narrow," Austin resident Corey Brikly told KVUE. "When were coming from where we parked there was, like a tree. I had to move kind of to the right and I leaned into the road almost. If I would've stumbled any more, I would've been on the road as cars were coming."
In addition to the recommendations for replacement or rehabilitation, some bridges also received recommendations for weight limit reductions due to structure deterioration. These include: 4th Street over Waller Creek; 5th Street over Waller Creek; Colorado Low Water Crossing below Mansfield Dam; and Nixon Lane over S. Fork Williamson Creek.
City bridges will be evaluated again this summer, the Public Works department said.
The City noted that the "accelerated" pedestrian bridge construction method used by Florida International University has never been applied in Austin.
To see the full City memo outlining these reports and the needs for each bridge, see the document below: