WACO, TX — A man known for praying on the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 35 said he is saddened to see structure being demolished.
The demolition started overnight Tuesday with removal of the portion of the bridge on the northbound frontage road.
On Tuesday morning, Virgil Bell went to the bridge one last time to pray at that location for the city and the country.
"I'm kind of sad because this was my main bridge," Bell said.
The Texas Department of Transportation is demolishing the structure for the reconstruction of I-35, which will add more main lanes to the interstate and widen frontage roads.
The change is also bringing concern about pedestrian safety.
"There might be an accident with someone trying to go across the freeway," Bell said.
TxDOT Spokesman Ken Roberts said this is a situation that could be prevented.
"By no means should anyone even consider trying to cross interstate, if they value their lives," Roberts said.
The state agency is also looking at solutions to improve safety once the pedestrian bridge is demolished.
"We will be working with the city as well as Baylor to see what kinds of accommodations can be made for pedestrians getting from one side to the other," Roberts said.
Bell plans to continue praying at the bridges on Forrest Street and 12th street.
"Hope is still alive whether you see me on this bridge or not," Bell said.
Pedestrians will have other areas to cross safely, including Fourth and Fifth street, 12th street and University Parks Drive.
"You are only talking about a couple blocks to get there and be safe. We strongly encourage people don't cross Interstate 35 when you have the traffic like it is now," said Sgt. Patrick Swanton with the Waco Police Department.
Once the $341 million reconstruction project is complete, those crossings will also be enhanced with more lighting and sidewalks.
Baylor and Waco Transit are also considering to help people cross Interstate 35 by bus.
Baylor University spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said TxDOT, Texas A&M Transportation Institute is working with groups in the city, including Baylor, Waco Bicycle Club and Waco Walks on a safety initiative.
There will be additional road closures near the pedestrian bridge as the demolition continues. For more information, click here.