Closed for Repairs: 11-month-long bridge overhaul to put Rio Hondo drivers on a detour

RIO HONDO — This city’s mechanical lift bridge, one of the rare east-west Arroyo Colorado crossings north of Harlingen, is more than a crucial link to the Laguna Madre.

Take a look at the city’s motto — “Bridging Family, Business, Recreation.” Or better yet, glance at the side of a city police cruiser, where you’ll see “Gateway to the Arroyo.”

The spider-like structure astride FM106 is certainly a unique and beloved landmark for the 2,356 residents of this city in north Cameron County. But that affair, and the locals’ patience, are going to be tested when the bridge is shut down for a year for repairs starting in September.

“For 11 months it will be non-operational — if we’re lucky,” TxDOT project manager Sergio Sustaita, the engineer who is overseeing the Rio Hondo bridge refit, said earlier this week.

TxDOT is overseeing the $12 million bridge project that will include structural, mechanical and electrical rehabilitation, fender repairs, a bridge railing retrofit and improving the banks of the Arroyo Colorado under the bridge. Total estimated working time on the project is 33 months.

A mechanical lift bridge like the one here is quite unusual. It is the only bridge of its type in Texas, and Rio Hondo officials say there are only two others like it in the country, in California and in Louisiana. The Louisiana bridge no longer raises and lowers, merely serving as a fixed crossing.

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Just The Facts

Type: Mechanical vertical lift bridge

History: Opened 1953

Length of largest span: 145 feet

Total length: 382 feet

Width: 25.3 feet

Average daily traffic: 6,000 vehicles