Thursday, August 2, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Commissioners request authentic reconstruction for Lamar Bridge

Sometimes, accidents happen.

In an emergency addition to the Historic Landmark Commission agenda on July 23, commissioners heard the case of the Lamar Boulevard Bridge over Shoal Creek.

Last month a vehicular collision damaged the bridge, which lies between 12th Street and 15th Street. A portion of the original railing was torn off and landed in the creek below along with the top section of one of the concrete pylons. Two other pylons suffered damage when the railing came loose. Currently, there are water barriers on the bridge for safety.

“This is rather an emergency situation,” noted Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky.

However, according to Pirouz Moin, bridge engineer with the Public Works Department, the situation is under control. He explained that he only needed the commission’s input on the color of the new railing that they were going to install.

“We can paint the rest of the railing on either side of the bridge silver … but if you would like, we can also paint the railing green to match the rest of the structure,” he said.

For the commissioners, the solution was not that simple. “We would need some paint analyses … to know what color it was during (the) period of its significance,” explained Commissioner Kevin Koch.

Moin said that although he had researched historical paint colors, he was unable to find what the original shade was when the bridge was constructed in the mid-20th century. He noted that records go back to 2001, when the bridge railings were painted silver instead of today’s green.

According to Moin though, changing colors on bridges is not unusual. Whether due to graffiti abatement or car accidents, repairs are commonplace, and unless the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places – this particular bridge is not – the replacement parts are installed to maintain the overall character of the bridge in its current state.

Charles Peveto, the chair of the Shoal Creek Conservancy’s Historic Bridges Committee, addressed the commission to request that Public Works submit its proposal for repairs so that the public can see what precisely the repairs will entail. Without the installation of the original railings, he feared, the character of the bridge could change.

“We would very much like the bridge to be restored in kind,” he said.

Doing so, according to Moin, will be costly. “The issue would be to have to anchor the piece … in such a way that future impact, like a truck hitting it, would not break it,” he said. “For that, we would have to remove more of the post to insert anchors … and repair it back.” In addition, he said that they would also have to go through lead abatement because of the age of the original paint.

Still, Koch recommended that Public Works restore the bridge to the greatest state of authenticity possible that remains in compliance with crash ratings.

Chair Mary Jo Galindo also wanted to see every effort to restore the railing.

Koch did note that his primary concern was the reinstallation of the railing “because the color can always be changed.”

Although the commissioners did not vote on any recommendation, city staff took their comments back to consider the most fiscally responsible and historically accurate way to repair the damage swiftly.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Historic Landmark Commission: The city’s Historic Landmark Commission promotes historic preservation of buildings and structures. The commission also reviews applications and permits for historic zoning and historic grants.

historic preservation: Official actions of a municipality such as the City of Austin taken to preserve structures with their jurisdiction. Preservation is often accompanied by a property tax exemption.

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