BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Lower Elgin Road Bridge in Bastrop County has clearly seen better days.
It sits ravaged by the Memorial Day floods of 2015. Before that, it served as a pedestrian walkway. Before that, it was the only way for farmers and others in their cars or on their horse and buggy to cross Wilbarger Creek
Today it’s mangled, rusted and a safety hazard.
“It’s just shameful that it’s been allowed to deteriorate to this point,” says Ernie Nance. “It has been around for, what, almost 100-130 years.”
It’ll be around another 130 if Nance and several other property owners near the bridge see their dreams come to fruition. The group had spent the years since the flood trying to convince the county to repair the bridge. There have been roadblocks throughout.
The first concern was funding. But Bastrop County Judge Paul Papi says that may soon no longer be an issue.
“We have preliminary approval for FEMA funding for 75 percent of the cost of repairs,” Pape said.
“The remaining 25 percent (about $35,000) has been requested in a CDBG grant via Texas Department of Agriculture, but not yet approved. If we don’t get that approval, then perhaps interested citizens would help with the funds to draw down the FEMA money,” he told KXAN through email.
Nance is confident the property owners could raise enough money to make up the difference.
The issue now is interest in following through with any repairs.
“Funding has been a big concern, with tax revenues needed for more essential county programs and projects,” said Pape. “Once grant or private funding is identified and secured, then the Commissioners Court will be asked to approve the spending of these funds to repair the old bridge. To repair the bridge will be a commitment to continue to support its upkeep and use for public benefit. That’s a question that only a majority of the Commissioners Court can answer.”
That’s what worries Nance and the others.
“It hurts. You know, when we got out here in ’94 this was the only way to get to my place. We had to drive across this bridge,” Nance said. “It’s a part of Bastrop County’s History, and it’s a part of Texas history. You know, there’s not that many of these truss bridges left. We’d just like to see it remain part of Bastrop County’s history.”
“It has historical significance. Interested citizens have effectively researched the bridge and its role in the development of this part of Bastrop County in times past,” Pape said. “Ultimately, the bridge will have to be repaired and maintained for the benefit of the public, or it will have to be moved to a more appropriate (useful) location, or it will have to be demolished. We cannot do nothing.”