It seems there will one day be another bridge over U.S. Highway 259 connecting the Kilgore College campus.
At a regular board meeting Sept. 14, Kilgore College trustees heard presentations from construction firm representatives about possible designs for a new campus pedestrian bridge.
The former bridge, which was built across 259 and allowed students to cross the highway without danger for decades, was struck by an 18-wheeler last year and damaged beyond repair. It was removed, and a crosswalk system was set in place.
Jon Rowe, chair of the KC Property and Facilities Committee, introduced representatives from Halff Associates, a construction and engineering consulting firm based in Richardson.
The firm presented “very preliminary renderings” of possible bridge designs to the board, Rowe said.
“We are not picking a bridge design this evening,” he said, adding the information presented was only to give trustees an idea of what the initial phases of the project may look like.
Michael Medford, a Kilgore native and one of two Halff team members at the meeting, opened the presentation by telling the board about Halff’s preliminary work on the project, which began this summer after KC selected the firm for the project.
“This preliminary process is a fairly iterative process. We start big and we narrow down ideas. We find things we like and things that we don’t like and mostly what we want to find for you is a bridge that you guys like. This is going to be your bridge. We want this bridge to suit the needs of the college. We want the bridge to be something that is pleasing, that is a landmark and a marquee project for the college,” Medford said.
He added the company had compiled a preliminary engineering report to give to trustees, which would include possible designs and some cost estimates based on feedback from KC staff and local stakeholders.
One of the first major changes Medford discussed was a new height for the bridge. Because Hwy. 259 has been designated a freight route, the 16-foot clearance of the previous bridge was no longer acceptable by Texas Department of Transportation. The new minimum height for the bridge must be 19 feet, 6 inches.
Also, he said, the original bridge was constructed in 1970, before the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so the new structure would have to include additional accessibility features to comply with the act.
A big challenge of the project, according to Medford, would be finding a way to fit the new bridge into the currently available space. One end of the bridge runs up against the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Center and new construction would either have to fit into this space or cross the highway in a different way. For example, the bridge could span the road diagonally to reach an area with more room for the construction.
Kirk Wilson, director of landscape architecture for Halff, showed the board three different preliminary sketches of possible bridge designs.
The preliminary designs included features not seen on the old bridge, including elevator access, a covering over the walkway and artistic elements to make the structure more visually appealing.
Construction materials could range from native Texas stone to stainless steel and the design could include a support pylon in the middle of the highway, as well as various landscaping features.
The three designs presented to the board could be “mixed and matched”, Wilson said, incorporating desired features from each design into a new design. He added, if trustees didn’t like anything presented, new designs could be worked up.
Trustees agreed to send their design decision to Halff Associates by the end of the week so the next phase of the project could begin.
Cost estimates, construction materials and a bidding process for the construction of the new bridge will all come over the next several months but, at this point, it’s certain the college is moving ahead with plans to replace the iconic Kilgore landmark with a new structure intended to serve both the college and the community as a whole.