By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO COUNTY – In a regular meeting of the Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court, Tuesday, commissioners approved payment of $39,000 to the Texas Department of Transportation for a bridge project on U.S. Highway 281 over the Brazos River.
Currently, the 281 bridge that crosses the Brazos just north of Interstate 20, near Magic Valley Ranch, holds two narrow lanes of traffic in opposite directions.
County Judge David Nicklas told the Index TxDOT plans to build a new bridge over the river, as well as refurbish the existing bridge, giving 281 both north and southbound bridges over the water with more space for large vehicles and semi trucks.
“It’s going to make travel on 281 much safer,” Nicklas said. “[The existing bridge] was built back when people weren’t driving as fast and cars weren’t as big.
“[This project] will just make things a lot safer for crossing the river.”
Nicklas said the plan is to update the existing bridge while maintaining the original look and style, including trusses.
Conversely, the new bridge will be a much more modern style, but both will be made as safe as possible.
TxDOT has not yet released which bridge will carry north or southbound traffic.
One of the key factors is this project is to maintain the historical value of the current bridge, according to Nicklas.
“We so casually tear things down these days and don’t refurbish them,” he said. “The bridge is safe, it’s just too narrow for oncoming traffic.
“It’s especially risky if two big rigs are crossing.”
Nicklas said TxDOT told him the project should begin sometime during 2014.