Historic Waco landmark to be temporarily closed

One of the oldest bridges still in use in the United States, Washington Avenue Bridge, goes under construction. Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

By Mary Ellis | Staff Writer

The iconic Waco Washington Avenue Bridge will be closed beginning Jan. 24 due to a large-scale utility project.

Jonathan Echols, the public relations coordinator for the City of Waco’s Water Utility Services, said the bridge itself does not need any reconstruction or renovations.

Instead, the reason the bridge is to be closed to vehicle traffic is because the Water Utility Services is using a bypass to be able to repair the pipe using the “cured-in-place” method. This method avoids digging up the pipe to replace or repair the part that is broken, which is costly and time consuming, Echols said.

Echols described the “cured-in-place” method as a “cast” when injected with really hot water and steam. It forms a new pipe inside the broken pipe, which fixes the problem.

The Washington Avenue Bridge was registered as a National Historic Place in 1998. Dr. Stephen Sloan, associate professor of history and director of the Institute for Oral History, said it is known to be the second bridge across the Brazos River.

“The Suspension Bridge was completed in 1870, and the Washington Avenue Bridge is completed in 1902 and it is an automobile bridge,” Sloan said. “So, there are cattle and buggies going across the Suspension Bridge and cars going across the Washington Avenue Bridge.”

The Washington Avenue Bridge was completed in 1902. Repairs took place in 2004 and again in 2010. After the restoration, the bridge maintained roughly 95% of the original material. According to Sloan, it was not until the renovation in 2010 that the bridge was opened up to two-way traffic.

Sloan said the Washington Avenue Bridge’s claim to fame is that it is “the longest span of steel truss bridge that still has traffic” in the United States. At the time of its completion, it would have been the only way visitors could come into Waco.

“It was built to kind of recognize the fact that Waco was growing,” Sloan said.

The Washington Avenue Bridge will be closed for approximately eight weeks according to Echols, but it will be open for pedestrian crossings.