This is a rare Texas example of a deck plate girder swing bridge. The setting is truly unique because this low level swing bridge was paired with a high level fixed bridge, forming a one-way couplet of bridges. It is very rare for a movable bridge to be retained next to a fixed high level bridge. It would appear to speak to Texas taking the preservation of historic bridges more seriously than most states, as the swing bridge has been rehabilitated and noted as a historic bridge with a interpretive marker. Reportedly, Texas engineers reviewed the Deweyville Bridge, also a deck plate girder swing bridge, to assist in the design of the Cow Bayou bridge. This is interesting because the Deweyville Bridge is on the state line with Louisiana and it was Louisiana (with its vast experience in building movable bridges over that state's many navigable waterways) who led the design of the Deweyville Bridge. So in a strange way, the Cow Bayou bridge is an example of a bridge in Texas influenced by the engineering designs of a different state... Louisiana.
Information and Findings From Texas Historical Commission
THIS CENTER-BEARING SWING BRIDGE, COMPLETED IN 1940, IS ONE OF ONLY A FEW SUCH HIGHWAY BRIDGES REMAINING IN TEXAS. THE BRIDGE WAS THE LAST MAJOR COMPONENT CONSTRUCTED ALONG TEXAS HIGHWAY 87, WHICH WAS KNOWN AS THE "HUG-THE-COAST-HIGHWAY" RUNNING FROM ORANGE TO BROWNSVILLE. THE STRUCTURE ALSO CREATED A VITAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE REGIONAL ECONOMIC CENTERS OF ORANGE AND PORT ARTHUR. THE COW BAYOU BRIDGE WAS MODELED AFTER AN EXISTING SWING BRIDGE OVER THE SABINE RIVER IN DEWEYVILLE, NEWTON COUNTY, WHICH HAD BEEN COMPLETED IN 1938. THIS STRUCTURE IS 806 FEET IN TOTAL LENGTH AND CARRIES TWO LANES OF TRAFFIC. THE BRIDGE HAS A CENTRAL PLATE THAT PIVOTS OR "SWINGS" ON A CENTER-BEARING CONCRETE PIER MOUNTED ON TIMBER PILES. AN ELECTRIC MOTOR POWERS ITS MOVING PARTS, AND A COMPLETE OPENING AND CLOSING OF THE BRIDGE CAN OCCUR IN TEN MINUTES, ALLOWING MOVEMENT OF BOTH ROAD AND WATER VEHICLES. AFTER THE COMPLETION OF THE BRIDGE, THE PRAIRIE VIEW AND WINFREE SCHOOL DISTRICTS, WHICH WERE LOCATED ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF COW BAYOU, WERE CONSOLIDATED. THE NAME BRIDGE CITY WAS SUGGESTED FOR THE NEW DISTRICT, BECAUSE OF THE COW BAYOU BRIDGE AND THE NEARBY "RAINBOW BRIDGE" OVER THE NECHES RIVER, WHICH HAD BEEN COMPLETED IN 1938; THE COMMUNITY INCORPORATED AS BRIDGE CITY IN 1970. IN 1999 THE TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (TxDOT) CONSIDERED REPLACEMENT OF THE COW BAYOU BRIDGE, AND CONCERNED CITIZENS FORMED A GROUP IN 2007 TO ADVOCATE FOR THE BRIDGE'S RETENTION. AS A RESULT, TxDOT INSTEAD TOOK ACTION TO ADJUST AND REPAIR THE BRIDGE SO THAT IT COULD BE PRESERVED AS A FUNCTIONING PART OF AN IMPORTANT TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
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