COVER: The Blanco River swept away much of the Post Road bridge in northern San Marcos during the Memorial Day weekend flood. Hays County and state officials apparently have reached an agreement for funding a replacement. SUBMITTED PHOTO.
by BRAD ROLLINS
12:19 p.m. TUESDAY, JULY 14: The Hays County Commissioners Court approved a funding agreement this morning with the Texas Department of Transportation for a new Post Road bridge over the Blanco River.
Hays County transportation director Jerry Borcherding characterized the agreement as a starting point that gives TxDOT a legal basis to begin design and engineering work on a replacement bridge. The crossing was destroyed May 24 by the Memorial Day weekend flood.
“It’s essentially a placeholder at this point just to make sure we’re prepared to go forward with that repair,” Borcherding told County Judge Bert Cobb and the four precinct commissioners. The county is also considering the possibility of building an entirely new structure at a higher elevation than the existing 62-year-old low-lying bridge, Borcherding said.
In the meantime, officials are exploring options for a temporary crossing, Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant told the San Marcos Mercury after the meeting.
“I don’t think we’re going to ask people to keep driving around that point for the next three to five years until we get something else built,” Whisenant said.
On June 23, the commissioners court hired Bowman Consulting Group to design a temporary Blanco River crossing at Fischer Store Road in western Hays County, another major piece of county-owned infrastructure claimed by the flood. Officials are optimistic that a permanent Fisher Store Road bridge can be completed in about a year, a project that TxDOT has agreed to fund at an estimated $2,950,000; the timetable for a permanent new or rebuilt Post Road bridge is less concrete at this point.
The Post Road bridge funding agreement outlines a cost-sharing arrangement under which the state would fund $1,416,000 in engineering and construction costs on the project. The county would not have to put up $141,600 in cash — the customary ten percent local match — but would instead assume the comparable cost of repairs to other low-water crossings in the county.
The advance funding agreement also appears based on the expectation that 80 percent of the total cost can be funded through the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program. However, federal funding for the project is not assured, Whisenant suggested during the court’s discussion of the bridge.
“Since we’re at a juncture where we don’t have a lot of definite answers planned, [the advance funding agreement] gives us a good opportunity to move forward with some resolution to that,” Whisenant said, adding later: “It’s not a matter of if we’re going to fix it. It’s a matter of when and how. So I think this is a good start.”
7:17 a.m. TUESDAY, JULY 14: More than seven weeks after the historic Blanco River flood dismantled the low-lying Post Road bridge in northern San Marcos, state transportation officials have agreed to allocate federal bridge modernization funds to engineer and construct a new one.
Early May 24, fierce floodwaters washed away huge slabs of the bridge’s reinforced concrete deck, leaving an impassable void. Under an agreement the Hays County Commissioners Court is likely to approve during its regular session today, 80 percent of the estimated $1,416,000 cost to rebuild the bridge will be bankrolled through the Federal Highway Administration’s fund for replacing and rehabilitating deficient or obsolete bridges.
The Texas Department of Transportation will pay the remaining $283,200, including $141,600 that the county would normally be required to pay under the bridge program.
In exchange for waiving the local cash match, Hays County will replace culverts and complete other repairs at five low-water crossings elsewhere in the county including Montell Road (County Road 339) at Wanslow Creek near Wimberley; Sycamore Creek Drive at Sycamore Creek near Henley; Canyon Wren Drive at an unnamed seasonal creek in the Leisurewoods subdivision near Buda; and Gristmill Road (CR 153) and South Plum Creek Road (CR 156) at Plum Creek, both in Uhland. The county has three years under the agreement to complete those projects at an estimated total cost of $145,000.
The agreement does not say when TxDOT expects construction — or, for that matter, engineering and design — to begin on the Post Road bridge reconstruction or replacement.
Built in 1953, the 43-foot-long steel girder structure is one of 33 bridges in Hays County categorized by the highway administration’s National Bridge Inventory in 2014 as “functionally obsolete,” meaning it is not wide enough, tall enough and/or has inadequate approaches.
Post Road (CR 140) runs about four miles from Aquarena Springs Drive to its intersection with Old Stagecoach Road, just north of the river. It is bracketed on one end by major student apartment complexes and on the other by the Blanco Vista subdivision where 463 homes have been completed since 2008 and an additional 83 are under construction.
The southern end of Post Road is expected to accommodate an average of 27,000 daily trips by 2025, according to projections in the city of San Marcos’ 2004 transportation master plan prepared by engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates (since acquired by Dallas-based CDM Smith). Hays County’s 10-year transportation master plan, adopted in 2013, envisions Post Road as an eventual four-lane major arterial road.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An update posted to this story following commissioners court this morning has been revised throughout and expanded. Also, the story was updated with more precise figures for the number of homes completed and under construction in the Blanco Vista neighborhood.Email | Print