VIDEO: Historic bridge reopens

Published 9:10 pm Friday, August 14, 2015

By Sherry Koonce

The Orange Leader

BRIDGE CITY  – Chamber of Commerce members, business leaders and members of the community gathered Friday morning at the foot of the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge for a short trip back to the future.

The 75-year-old historical remnant, now newly restored, was opened for the first time since 2003, signaling a return to normalcy for the city bookended by bridges.

“It’s a historic event here,” Darrell Segura, 66, of Bridge City, said. “This bridge was headed for the scrap yard.”

A historical marker at the bridge tells the story of how Texas Department of Transportation officials considered replacing the Cow Bayou Swing Bridge in 1999, but changed their minds when a group of residents in 2007 lobbied to save the artifact.

Seven years later, the swing bridge was closed while workers totally restored it as part of a $9.5 million bridge project funded by TxDOT.

In the interim, both incoming and outgoing traffic on Texas 87 had to use the newer, and higher elevated, Cow Bayou Bridge, built adjacent to the swing bridge.

“I hated driving on those little, narrow lanes, especially when an 18-wheeler got next to me,” Claudine Hogan, 74, of Bridge City said.

Chamber of Commerce members were there for the opening ceremony, which started with a ribbon cutting at 8 a.m., followed by a short walk to the center of the bridge while TxDOT officials got behind the control box and opened the bridge for the first time.

Sarah Dupree, TxDOT spokesperson, said the swing bridge would officially reopen by the time school starts on Aug. 24.

The adjacent Cow Bayou Bridge will return to its normal lane size within a couple of weeks after the swing bridge opens, Dupree said.

The center-bearing swing bridge was opened in 1940, and has since become one of the few remaining swing bridges in Texas.

At the time, the bridge was modeled after an existing swing bridge in Deweyville and built to accommodate boat traffic taller than it’s 806 feet height.

The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge operates on a center bearing concrete pier mounted on timber piles, the historical marker indicated.

On Friday, the test demonstration was hailed a success.

“This means more convenience for people to come into Bridge City to eat, shop, and sample everything we have to offer,” B.J. Hanneman, Bridge City Chamber of Commerce administrative assistant, said.

While the swing bridge was closed, motorists experienced traffic problems traversing the narrow lanes on the makeshift two-way Cow Bayou Bridge, Hanneman said.

“This just opened up a lot of opportunities for our business community, especially during a time when we’ve got a big push to shop local,” Hanneman said.

The Cow Bayou Swing Bride was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, just four years after the Rainbow Bridge at the other end of Bridge City was listed in the National Register in 1996.

The Rainbow Bridge is also under construction with only one lane open to southbound traffic. The two-year restoration project started in early January.