As part of our effort to keep Georgetown residents informed about news related to the Austin Avenue bridges project, we re-publish project-related news stories from local papers on our blog.
This letter to the editor was published by The Williamson County Sun on June 11, 2017 (on Page 4A). The letter, written by Len Denton, a member of the Alliance, discusses three key points that prove that the Austin Avenue bridges are safe.
The letter is reprinted in its entirety below:
The City of Georgetown recently posted the following information regarding the Austin Avenue bridges on its website:
“The bridges have several deteriorating components and structural deficiencies, resulting in the need for load posting and falling debris on and below the bridges.”
If you read this statement, you are probably concerned that the bridges are unsafe. However, contrary to this vague, scary statement, it’s easy to prove the bridges are SAFE!
The proof is found in three quick points.
Point 1: Engineering Studies – Over the last year and a half, the City has commissioned four different engineering studies of the Austin Avenue bridges. These studies were performed by licensed, professional structural and civil engineering firms…real bridge experts. All four of the engineering studies show that the bridges are safe. (You can see those studies on the Georgetown website.)
Point 2: TxDOT bridge testing – TxDOT’s most recent test of the bridges found that the bridges were sound and had NO structural deficiencies.
Note: The City’s reference to structural deficiencies appears to be related to lane width on the bridges. Since the City controls the design standard for these lanes, they can redefine them to make them deficient. So, the deficiencies being alluded to in the City’s claim are related to a design definition and NOT a structural defect.
Point 3: TxDOT Load Rating – On May 2, 2016, TxDOT sent a letter to the City advising that they could raise the load limits on the bridges from the posted 48,000 pounds to 68,000 pounds. Despite this authorization to increase the load limits, the City has chosen to keep the load limits posted at the old 48,000-pound limit. Now, the City claims that the reduced weight limits are due to safety concerns, even after TxDOT allowed the higher limits. Confusing!
Finally, let’s discuss falling debris. It is true that several chunks of concrete have fallen from the underside of the bridges onto the walking trail below. This required the installation of protective nets to prevent debris from falling.
However, according to the consulting engineering reports noted above, there is NO risk to auto traffic on the bridges. Furthermore, the reports indicated that the debris is the result of a lack of preventative maintenance on the bridges and can be repaired.
So, to summarize, the City’s claims about the conditions of the Austin Avenue bridges sound scary, but the City’s own experts and TxDOT say the bridges are SAFE!
We thought you should know that.
Georgetown Neighborhood Alliance