In last week’s paper I mentioned the Public Meeting that is scheduled for Thursday, January 30 at 5:30 in the evening at the Eckert Civic Center to discuss the plans with City officials and TxDOT representatives for bridge replacements in the City of Mason. There are several different projects involved but all of them have been under discussion for several years now and it is looking like there may be some completion in the coming year. The new bridge crossing Comanche creek from Spring St going east to Balsam St is the major project and the driving force in all of these activities, and in my opinion one of the best things we can do to positively impact the traffic patterns in town. About eight years ago a vehicular accident on the old “Spring St Bridge” caused us to close that bridge, and after examining the structure it was determined that it was structurally unsafe and it was not economically feasible and not even reasonable in that location to rebuild that bridge. I have been asked numerous times about reopening that bridge, however if anyone has climbed down into the creek bed and actually looked at the structure and support members of that bridge they would never consider driving a vehicle across it again. It is just old and worn out and is very much not a safe structure to support vehicles of any nature and so should wisely remain a pedestrian crossing at most.
Looking back at the previous data, that route cutting through from Hwy 87 at Dairy Queen, down Spring Street and then around the Broad Street Bridge and back to the north side of town was used about 600 times a day and so was an important “transportation path” for those residents in that area. In addition there has been concerns regarding routes for emergency vehicles in that area and the alternative routes through town in the case of other emergency events in town, such as the propane truck overturning on the square a couple of years ago when we had to evacuate the center of town. After several discussions and much consideration the currently planned location was selected as the most direct and affecting the least number of private properties in the area. It is certainly understood that the addition of this kind of significant change in transportation route will negatively affect some individuals in a neighborhood, but this location seems to be the most logical. After careful planning and surveying it also was determined to affect the fewest properties in the neighborhood and this location has the least problems of any placement crossing Comanche Creek. In addition, as this project moves forward the City will be reconsidering the area streets and planning to expand, if possible, Spring St and reduce the concerns about drainage, water flow in the area and possible flooding when we again have rains. This is planned as a large bridge with two full lanes and a walkway on one side, that TxDOT will contract and oversee the construction, and they will turn it over to the City once it is complete. The City will also be responsible for the street approaches and will have to address any expansion and improvements of our street system to tie in with the bridge.
In addition, there are a couple of other related projects that will be addressed in this overall plan. One of these is that the Broad St Bridge, which is nearing its one hundredth birthday and is itself an important historical structure, will be closed to traffic and a significant rehabilitation will be carried out. There are portions of concrete that have broken or chipped as that bridge has aged and these will be replaced, there is deterioration in some of the support and wing walls underneath the bridge, and they will place a rock surface under the bridge in the creek to protect the base of it for years to come. This work will not begin until the new bridge is complete and open, and since the Broad St bridge is only one lane and was built to meet the needs of a century ago it is not entirely safe and will become a pedestrian bridge and the streets will be removed leading up to it when the work is complete. The vision we are working on is that then Comanche Creek Park just to the east of the bridge will be expanded and the bridge itself along with the approaching areas currently covered by asphalt will be turned into park area with some additional plantings and picnic tables that will have a view up Broad St to the Courthouse and be adjacent to the creek and the Seaquist House. This park will then be the northern end of the National Historic District that extends through the Square and all the way up the hill to the Fort Mason property, and will be connected with the other areas by new sidewalks with the aid of the Transportation Enhancement grant that the City has recently been awarded.
One other aspect of this entire project is that the City has agreed to fund and complete some other “bridge” improvements as an offset to the money being spent from the Federal Highway funds that TxDOT uses to pay for these projects. We have been in discussion about some of the other needs around town, and one of the plans is to add some strengthening surface to the short bridge on Post Hill St over the creek between the square and the Library, as this structure is showing definite signs of aging and weakening and the solution is pretty simple. The other project that is under consideration is the creek crossing at Smith Street, which has several problems and needs to probably be replaced in order to address the issues. The current situation does not drain well since it has a minimal opening through the base for water flow, the road surface there is effectively one lane and has no guardrails, and the visibility for oncoming cars is restricted and needs to be addressed. We are currently looking at alternatives and beginning to make plans for this project, although it is unlikely that it will be underway before the start of next year with the other projects the City is involved with.
All of these projects will be open for discussion next Thursday evening at the Civic Center, so if you have concerns or questions or if you just want to come by and see what these projects are about please feel free to come to this “open house” type gathering and let us know about your interests. This is not planned to be a structured meeting, but we are planning to be available to discuss any of these projects and share our plans, and if you have suggestions or issues then we will try to address them as we move forward in finalizing the projects. These projects will all have a lasting impact on the transportation infrastructure of the City of Mason and if you want to be informed and make sure your concerns are heard this will be the time and place to be involved in your local government decisions. If you have any other questions or would like to let me know your ideas, please also consider emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will listen and respond. Together we can continue to improve our town and make Mason the very best hometown in Texas.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent