AUSTIN (KXAN) – City staff have recommended that the Barton Springs Bridge be completely replaced based on cost, historical preservation and ensuring its longevity, according to a memo from Austin Public Works.
The Barton Spring bridge is approaching its centenary anniversary– it was built in 1925 and widened to its current form 20 years later. The bridge is in OK condition at the moment, but to ensure the safety of pedestrians and vehicles in the future, the city was tasked with exploring options to rehabilitate it.
In 2020, Austinites approved funding for major infrastructure projects, which included funding to address the bridge. The approval comes a couple of years after the structure was ranked among the top five bridges in Austin in the most need of rehabilitation.
The city was deciding between rehabilitating the current structure or a complete replacement. After evaluating the risks and benefits, they decided to recommend the replacement option. Future funding will need to be identified for the construction of the project.
“We understand the significance of the existing bridge and the importance of preserving historical assets. However, as stewards of the taxpayer’s money, there is an obligation to make the best value decision for the community. If the bridge is rehabilitated, very little of the existing structure will remain and those remaining elements will be almost entirely concealed by the new construction,” Public Works staff wrote in the memo.
There are three design alternatives for the new structure. The most expensive one is comprised of four arch ribs, creating a single arch. This option was designated to create a contemporary reference to the current structure and costs just over $18 million.
The least expensive design option utilizes eight “Y” shaped pillars and has a price tag of $10.2 million. The city highlighted this option as having multiple advantages, including being the least expensive to fund.
No decision is set in stone yet. The memo said that the Austin Public Works will continue coordinating with the Texas Historic Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until a final plan is agreed on.