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What is Old is New Again: The Rehabilitation of the Waco Suspension Bridge


Melinda Luna PE ASCE Texas Section History & Heritage Committee Chair

This is the final article in the three-part series on the Rehabilitation of the Waco Suspension Bridge. 

June 2022

To summarize the last article, we introduced the Team of Modjeski and Masters, Structural Technologies, Sparks Engineering Inc. (engineer of record), and Gibson & Associates (general contractor) with the City of Waco have undertaken the project of rehabilitation of the Waco Suspension Bridge. This project has a construction estimate of $12.4 million.

The Waco Suspension bridge was originally built and completed in 1869 and underwent rehabilitation in 1914. The bridge is a single span measuring 475 feet over the Brazos River.

We contacted the City of Waco and Patrick Sparks PE of Sparks Engineering to ask questions on this current project. We thought we would ask a couple of more questions to find out more about this great project. This is the third article of a three-part series on the Rehabilitation of the Waco Suspension Bridge.

What was the best thing about the project

There are really three things:  the bridge itself, which is a beautiful engineering landmark; the team of specialty subcontractors who brought a lot of essential skill to the project; and the City of Waco, which had the vision, resources and commitment to make the project happen.

What is one thing you could change about the project?

If we could have, we would have done it when the economic situation was more favorable!

What if anything can you recommend to others doing a historic rehabilitation?

It is very important to really understand what the existing structure actually is and how it really behaves.  Reach an accurate diagnosis through observation, testing, historical research, and analysis.  Don’t just impose a ‘standard’ solution.

What is next for the bridge? 

This was a comprehensive rehabilitation, with a minimum of 100-year design life for the suspension system.  Of course, there will be maintenance along with routine inspections every couple of years and detailed inspection every 10 years.  Painting will probably have to be done very 20 to 30 years.

The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2022. Special Thanks to Patrick Sparks, PE and the City of Waco for sharing their experiences with ASCE and the readership.

View Part 1 of this series here.

View Part 2 of this series here.