By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
The scheduled two-night demolition of Gainesville’s Star Street Bridge became a single night’s work spanning Tuesday into Wednesday, with much of the bridge busted away ahead of plan.
During an 11-hour shift, Ed Bell Construction crews removed a majority of the bridge panels and beams via crane and jackhammer.
Site clearing continues through the week, but the speed of the main job eliminated a second day of road closures and detours.
“Everything went off without a hitch,” said Adele Lewis, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) public information officer. “What we were trying to accomplish was, at least, if not to demolish the whole bridge, get the stuff over the main lanes done. That was the goal in the first place.”
Wednesday afternoon included some light sprinkling in Gainesville, but nothing that hindered removing the bridge. Lewis said the original two-day scheduling and its closures of segments of Interstate 35 and Highway 82 — originally announced during the past week — was a safeguard.
“It would give us room in case we had to close both nights,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “And really, there may still be lane closures possible during the day, but last night we had the stuff over the main lanes cleared. The problem with doing that kind of demolition and closing I-35 during the day is that we’d have impacted so many more travelers.”
And contrary to hearsay, Lewis added, the demolition of Star Street Bridge was conducted by hand rather than by explosion.
“We don’t implode bridges at TxDOT very often,” she said. “I’ve been here 14-and-a-half years and there was only one bridge in Throckmorton that was imploded.
It may be more common in other parts of the state, but here, it’s a rarity.”
Lewis said the bridge’s removal over Interstate 35 represents the last time TxDOT road work will force a major closure of the entire freeway during the foreseeable future.
“There may be lane closures, but this was the final closure of I-35,” she said.