AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Fifteen days after flooding washed away the RM 2900 bridge, the Kingsland community is celebrating the new bridge that's going up in its place. TxDOT crews broke ground on construction of the new bridge on Friday.
District engineer for TxDOT Austin Terry McCoy says usually, contractors are hired to design bridges, and the process can take around one year. However, he says on the day the bridge was washed away, a group of TxDOT's best engineers began designing the new bridge. They finished the work in just 15 days.
"This became job one," McCoy said. "Top priority for us."
McCoy says while it usually then takes a few years to build such a bridge, the new RM 2900 bridge will be built in just six months. Crews will work 24/7 to get it done. McCoy says they will also work through any rain or snow, and they'll also work on holidays.
"We asked them the question if they were willing to do this and the answer was a very very affirmative, 'yes.' These people will be giving up time with their families to make sure this bridge gets built correctly," McCoy said. "We're going to get it built as quickly as we can, and we're going to get it opened up, where people can return to their normal lives."
Construction crews are using two barges to help build the bridge. They're building from both sides at the same time, to help speed up the process.
At Friday's groundbreaking ceremony, dozens of Kingsland residents showed up to thank TxDOT engineers and their contracted construction workers.
"24/7 noise? Bring it on. We don't care. Just build it," Susan Patten laughed.
Patten is president of the Kingsland Chamber of Commerce, and she runs the Valentine Lodge with Pat Muller.
"It's a beautiful thing," Muller said of the construction noise. "We're not complaining about it a bit. It's the sound of progress to us."
Patten and Muller have a home on the other side of the bridge from Kingsland. Taking the bridge, it was only 15 minutes away. Without the bridge, it now takes a 50-minute detour to get there. The two plan to stay mostly at their lodge until the new bridge is finished.
During the flooding, they housed evacuees, and now they're housing some of the construction workers who've come in from out of state to work on the bridge.
Knowing the workers will miss Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families to get the job done, "We're going to do what we can to make them feel at home away from home," Patten said.
Patten and Muller say the workers' sacrifice is making a big difference for those in their community who desperately need the bridge.
"Where this really matters is that there are a lot of elderly over there, who, it's now harder for them to get to medical services. "It's harder for them to get to the grocery store," Patten said.
She says in the meantime, good neighbors have set up shopping groups that drive 50 minutes to buy groceries for elderly people who can't drive that far. Others are also pitching in to take seniors to their doctor's appointments.
TxDOT plans to open the new bridge, which will be higher and wider, in April.
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