KINGSLAND (KXAN) — A new RM 2900 bridge opened Friday for drivers, connecting Kingsland to the Hill Country for the first time in seven months since flood waters washed away the previous bridge.
On October 16, 2018, floodwaters swept away the community’s main thoroughfare that runs over the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ.
Texas Department of Transportation crews have been working almost around the clock to complete the half-mile bridge. Officials originally hoped to have the bridge completed by April, but will settle for a May opening. A project of this magnitude usually takes at least a year to complete.
TxDOT held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon. In addition to local and state leaders, U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz both attended and spoke to the large crowd that assembled.
All the speakers commended the crews who worked tirelessly the past few months to complete the $17.3 million project. The new bridge has wider 12-foot travel lanes with six-foot shoulders and a six-foot sidewalk. These improvements will make the bridge five feet higher than the previous one.
Mike Arellano, the director of operations for the TxDOT Austin District, said the new bridge can withstand any flooding that happens in the future.
“This is a very high-quality bridge that we constructed in a short amount of time,” Arellano said. “We had a great contractor, great engineers and modern technology to do it.”
Among the crowd who attended the ribbon cutting was Judy Stewart, who wore a black T-shirt with the words “Kingsland Strong” written in white letters on the front.
“It’s very special,” Stewart said about the day. “We’ve gone through a lot. Businesses have suffered, and it’s very exciting to see the community come together and that they got this bridge built really quickly.”
Crews faced some obstacles since construction began. Debris below the lake’s bed surface and the drawdown of Lake LBJ water levels by the Lower Colorado River Authority affected barge movements.
“We’re ready,” Penny Brown, an employee at Buddies One Stop in Kingsland said.
The popular gas station store has seen better days. The store manager said they’ve lost thousands of dollars since the bridge washed away.
“A lot of our customers come from Sunrise Beach,” Brown said.
Customers also came from Horseshoe Bay and the Bridgepoint subdivision community to pump gas and grab breakfast or a snack before heading to work.
They’ve all had to find alternate routes for their daily commute.
“People are having to go all the way around if they want to come into Kingsland,” Brown said. “I know people that come for church on Sunday and it takes them two hours roundtrip.”
Buddies wasn’t the only business to take a hit after the floods.
“I have about six clients in Bridgepoint that were just on the other side of the bridge,” Mark D’Asto said. “They were my closest customers and since October they’ve been my farthest customers.”
D’Asto is the owner of LBJ Gardens and said he commutes all across the Hill Country but the added commute time has had an impact on his bottom line.
“Time is a big thing with us because I only get paid when I am there,” he said.
The replacement bridge will open ahead of Memorial Day weekend, but Brown said Monday will be the big day since it’ll be the start of a new work week.
“It’s going to be great,” she said. “We are so excited, we are ready to have (customers) back.”