The state’s transportation department is in the preliminary design phase of the proposed “corkscrew bridge” that replace the current FM 457 swing bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway in Sargent.
Still in the early stages, dimensions of the $28.7 million project are not yet set, said Cari Hensley, public information officer for the Yoakum office of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Officials are discussing what the proper height would be to allow all traffic to safely flow underneath without making it too tall, Hensley said. Initial measurements, however, are proposed to span 225 feet and clear 73 feet.
There currently is no timetable for beginning construction, and officials are waiting on environmental clearance to proceed, she said.
“It’s really hard to have definite details while it’s still in the design stage,” Hensley said.
A standard concrete bridge, drivers will travel in a complete circle to get to the top of the structure, the in another complete circle on the other side to get to the bottom. The corkscrew bridge will have two lanes, one for each direction, and is expected to have space on the sides for pedestrians and cyclists.
Construction will not begin until department officials complete the letting process for the project, she said. Letting, or making it available for bidding, is a standard procedure for every Texas Department of Transportation project.
Hensley said the corkscrew bridge is scheduled to be let in April 2017.
The swing bridge, the last operating in Texas, needs replacing because of its age and high maintenance costs, she said. It costs about $500,000 to operate, Hensley said.
It extends 120 feet and clears 15 feet, 5 inches, and it typically takes 15 minutes to open. Five full-time employees work the bridge in shifts around the clock.
Once completed, the corkscrew bride will provide unrestricted traffic flow both by cars across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and watercraft on it, district engineer Paul Rietz said in an email.
The bridge is one solid piece and will be tall enough for safe passage underneath, Rietz said.
“The new bridge will be beneficial because it will provide reliable and constant access over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway without the wait time from barge traffic,” he said. “This is especially important for emergency vehicles.”