Popular pedestrian bridge to be demolished - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Popular pedestrian bridge to be demolished

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)
WACO, TX (KXXV) -

Plans to expand Interstate 35 in Waco also come with plans to demolish a popular pedestrian bridge. 

Jodi Wheatley is the Texas Department of Transportation Waco District I-35 information specialist, and she said everything from N. Loop 340 to S. Loop 340 will be revamped. She said the projects is estimated to cost $433 million, if the entire project can be completed in one piece. 

The 8th Street pedestrian bridge runs across that stretch of I-35 and is used by both Baylor University students and everyday walkers and bike-riders. But the expansion of I-35 does not include rebuilding that bridge.

"When we get the funding to expand I-35 in this area the pedestrian bridge will have to be demolished," Wheatley said. "We're widening I-35 to four lanes in each direction, and that's going to run right through the supports for the bridge, so it has to come down," she added.

Wheatley said another reason the bridge has to come down, and won't be rebuilt is because it does not meet current Americans with disabilities standards.

"It's not in compliance with current ADA standards and in order to bring it into compliance we would have to create much longer ramps," she said. "[Rebuilding it] would involve acquiring a great deal more land, a great deal more right away acquisition."

The TxDOT spokesperson said the decision to demolish and not rebuild the bridge was made by TxDOT, the city of Waco, and Baylor. She said the three debated on building an underground tunnel, or an elevator, but decided against those ideas because of safety concerns. 

Virgil Bell lives in Waco, and is known as the Waco Praying Man. He often goes up to the 8th St. bridge to demonstrate and pray for people passing by.

"God called me up here to pray for the city, and the entire world, and the traffic, and everyone I see, and everyone I pass by," Bell said. 

The praying man said he's been visiting the bridge to pray for the last eight years.

"No cars can come up here and run over me," Bell said. "They hate to see this bridge go because they know cars cannot come up here." 

Although TxDOT says the plans to rebuild the pedestrian bridge are not likely, Bell says he will continue to pray for the city.

"I know God is going to have me all over Waco like never before since this bridge is going," he said. "I'm going to miss just showing that love and sharing that love to them close up that's what I'm going to miss about this bridge right here."

Wheatley said there is not a concrete date for when the expansion project will start. There are plans to convert the 5th Street bridge and 12th street crossing to provide better pedestrian access. 

Copyright 2017 KXXV. All rights reserved. 

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