By Jimmy Potts
jpotts@brownwoodbulletin.com

TxDOT recently announced a two-month delay to a $12 million railroad bridge project above U.S. Highway 84/183, just south of Early, in order to bring it up to current standards.
TxDOT Information Officer Andrew Carlson said the delay comes as part of a redesign of the railroad bridge after it was originally designed to have a 16 ½ feet clearance, but with recent changes to TxDOT policies it must now have an 18 ½ feet clearance.
“Just in the past year or so TxDOT revised its bridge height standards,” Carlson said. “It takes a few years to design something like this. When we originally designed it, we designed it to what the standards were until about a year ago, which was around 16 ½ feet. We were thinking, while we have it under construction, let’s go ahead and make the clearance what the new standards are. We just went into a quick redesign and figured out a way where we can lower the roadway a couple of more feet.”
Since August of 2016, TxDOT worked to conclude a four-phase, $12.4 million railroad bridge construction project at U.S. Highway 84/ 183. In its previous state, the bridge required the four-lane highway, which reaches a speed limit of 75 miles per hour in some sections, to bottleneck to two lanes. Once completed, TxDOT will expand the highway to five lanes, including a turn lane.
The first phase, involved constructing a temporary bridge for Fort Worth and Western Railroad so not to impede freight commerce. Construction crews then tore down the old bridge, constructed the new bridge and are in the process of widening the road. The new bridge will remain the property of Fort Worth and Western Railroad, but TxDOT will continue ownership and maintenance of the highway.
In a follow-up email, Carlson stated the increased clearance allows more oversized cargo loads to pass under the bridge, thus easing movement of freight.
“We just wanted to bring it up to the most current standards so we did not have to come back and do it at a later point,” Carlson said. “We want to build it to the latest standards so, while we already have the road torn up, we’ll just go ahead and build it to the latest standards. It adds another two months. We were looking to have the whole thing wrapped up in May or so and now we’re looking at July. We just had to make a few design changes and now we’re digging out the roadway about 2 feet below it original level.”