Historic Whipple Truss Bridge in Texas to Be Replaced

By J.B. Smith | Waco Tribune-Herald

CLIFTON, Texas (AP) — Crossing the North Bosque River bridge at Clifton City Park can be a white-knuckle experience for the uninitiated.

In this July 12, 2017 photo, the Clifton Whipple Truss wood-and-asphalt bridge located near Clifton, Texas that has spanned the Bosque river since 1884 is scheduled to be replaced with a more modern one made of concrete. (Rod Aydelotte//Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports the wood-and-asphalt decking creaks, the rusted truss above begins to rattle and hum, and it’s hard not to think about tumbling 50 feet into the shining river below.

But as local history buff Leon Smith sees it, that’s the charm of the Whipple truss bridge that has spanned the river since 1884.

“Generation after generation of Clifton and Bosque County people have passed over this bridge and enjoyed it,” he said, leaning on the rusted bridge rail. “In some ways, it’s a scary bridge to cross because it’s so narrow. It’s like a ride at Six Flags.”

Anyone who would consider that a thrill had better hurry to Clifton now, before it’s too late.

Work began in July on a modern steel-and-concrete bridge about 10 feet away that will soon replace the last functioning Whipple truss bridge in Texas.

The $1.45 million project is being funded mostly through a federal transportation grant administered by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The project won’t raze the historic bridge, which is owned by Bosque County. But once the new bridge is in place, the old one will be stabilized and stripped of its decking and approaches, leaving it as an inaccessible “monument.”

That doesn’t sit well with Smith and other local preservationists, who had envisioned the bridge as a centerpiece of heritage tourism for this town of about 3,500 people. Even if the town can eventually raise enough money to restore the bridge, he said, the new bridge would detract from it.

“This is a bridge built by our founders,” said Smith, a former mayor and Clifton Record editor who is now on the Bosque County Historical Commission. “I can picture them coming over, looking over the sides, and it’s kind of inspirational. To have a new bridge 10 feet from the old one is going to spoil the view.”

Clifton Mayor Jim Heid, who was elected in May, said that decision can’t be reversed, but he’d like to see a campaign to reclaim the old truss bridge as a bike-pedestrian bridge.

“It’s a historical treasure, and future generations will be kicking themselves if nobody made a concerted effort to save it,” he said. “There’s too much of our history that’s going by the wayside.”

TxDOT officials bid the bridge in April, just shy of the deadline for spending federal funds for the bridge. The Federal Highway Administration first pledged money for the new bridge in 2000, but the project has been beset with delays, including issues of how to properly handle the historic bridge.

Michael Bolin, transportation and planning director for TxDOT’s Waco district, said the old bridge could not be retrofitted to modern standards without compromising its historic integrity, and the federal grant required the new one to be built next to the old one.

He said the solution may not please everyone, but it balances public safety, historic preservation and cost concerns.

“It preserves this unique historical structure but also protects the access to the route there,” he said. “No doubt, it’s a mix of the old and the new, but we’re going to retain the part of the structure that makes it historic.”

He said the new bridge wouldn’t block the view from the truss bridge, if it’s ever restored, and the distinctive trusses of the old bridge will still be visible from the park and river.

Bolin said the old Whipple bridge isn’t in eminent danger of failing, but its structural integrity declines by the year. Its bridge piers and foundations have eroded, its iron joints have rusted away and its metal components have become “deformed.”

Bolin said the “monumenting” of the bridge will replace some bolts and rivets and protect the piers, slowing its decay. But a more thorough renovation project costing an additional $1.2 million would be required to make it safe for pedestrian use in the long term, he said.

“It will continue to degrade as time goes on,” he said. “It’s only going to be worse tomorrow.”

Posted by on Sep 1st, 2017 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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