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2016-05-26

Proposed improvements to English Crossing Bridge

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Last week, a weather report from the State Operations Center predicted possible severe thunderstorms across the Hill Country and South Central Texas for several days. The alert included winds up to 60 mph, hail and heavy rainfall with flooding in low-lying areas.
With those kinds of prognostications, it was inevitable that English Crossing would once again be impassable, and – to no one’s surprise – it was.
During a Bandera County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday, May 9, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan “Jody” Rutherford, had presciently addressed the ongoing problem that confronts his constituents.
In rather an understatement, Rutherford said, “The low water crossing on English Crossing Road between the Mustang Crossing and Comanche Cliffs subdivisions has been a subject of frustration and discussion for some time.” He noted that when the crossing becomes “overtopped with minimal storm flows,” road & bridge crews must close off access to vehicular traffic until the water levels recede.
For years, county officials have asked representatives with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to alleviate problems in the area. However, that particular low water crossing seems to hold little interest for the agency.
In 2012, the subject of the English Crossing Bridge was broached with TxDot Kerr County Engineer Michael Coward. Problems had occurred in that area for more than a decade, according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris and then-Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King.
“In 2002 and 2003, water went over the spillway and closed the bridge for two months,” Harris said. “This added an hour driving time for residents and made it difficult for police, firemen and EMS to get to the area. This bridge should be a high priority.”
According to King, data regarding closures and traffic counts had been collected in that area in the last few five years.
“The issue is waterway adequacy and we need data to back up assertions,” Coward said. “We put the collected data in a database and it spits out a number which leads to a ranking.” That ranking, in turn, determines when repairs will begin.
According to King, however, the ongoing five-year drought probably skewed the data collection somewhat.
Other considerations that surfaced during the discussion of repairing or replacing the English Crossing Bridge included new federal requirements for guardrails and “traversable slopes”; an “astronomical” cost that might result from acquiring additional rights-of-way; and possibly closing the bridge for the year – or more – the project would take.
“When the bridge is closed, motorists would like a little advance notice,” King to Coward. King asked that a flip sign be placed at the Pipe Creek Post Office for adequate advance notification. Although Coward seemed amenable to the suggestion, the flip sign was never installed.
When Rutherford became commissioner of Precinct 4, he inherited the aggravations of the periodic bridge closures.
He noted, “In October 2015, I was asked to research some high level costing options for bridge improvements in this area.” He said his intention was not to alleviate all flooding, but rather to minimize the times when the road is covered with water and closed to vehicular traffic for extended periods.
Extended closures of the English Crossing Bridge force residents to drive through the City of Bandera to access their properties on the other side of the Medina River.
Rutherford proposed raising the crossing to provide a small margin of increased water flow. This would be accomplished by replacing the five existing box culverts with larger culverts, elevating the travelway by three feet.
“Again, this would provide only for a margin of relief to nuisance overtopping of the roadway during minimal storm events,” Rutherford explained.
He told the court that a rough estimate for engineering and reconstruction by Klotz and Associates Engineering for his plan was $350,000 – to be paid from county coffers.
However, this option would not be subject to federal requirements since TxDOT funding would not be used and additional rights-of-ways would not be necessary.
Harris suggested that the county apply for a grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority to offset construction costs. “This would be an excellent source of funding for this project,” he said.
Road & Bridge Superintendent John Andrade brought up the issue about a closure sign at the Pipe Creek Post Office. However, an informational sign would have to go through TxDOT because it would need to be installed on the agency’s right-of-way.
No action was taken on Rutherford’s proposal.