GALVESTON CAUSEWAY HAERNo. TX-37
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Posted by Jesse Sharkoman Berube
Built from 1909 to 1912 by A. M. Blodgett Construction Company of Kansas City, Missouri, the Galveston Causeway consisted of a 2455'-0"-long concrete arch viaduct with a central lift span, flanked on either end by long stretches of earthen embankments. The completed structure stretched more than two miles across the bay and included 8,219, -9" of concrete-faced embankments (3,696'-5" on the Virginia Point end and 4,523'-4" on the Galveston end). To form the embankments, earth and sand fill was poured over concrete piles connected by tie rods and stabilized by a concrete retaining wall on the upper slopes. A centrifugal pump driven by a 200-horsepower motor was used to bring the fill three miles through a pipeline from Offats Bayou on Galveston Island to the construction site; two floating concrete plants were used for concrete work. The central viaduct consisted of twenty-eight reinforced concrete arches, of 70'-0" span and 9'-0" rise, with fourteen spans flanking either side of a Scherzer rolling-lift drawbridge.
The drawbridge, which extended 120 feet from center to center of pins, provided a lOO'-O" clear opening for the passage of ships into Galveston Bay. The draw span was designed by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company of Chicago and fabricated by the Perm Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. As completed in 1912, the drawbridge was one of the largest of its kind in the world. It weighed 3,293,000 pounds, 700 tons of which was steel and the remainder consisting of 500 cubic yards of concrete used as a counterbalance. The lift was operated by two 50-horsepower motors, originally powered by the electric interurban line. To support the drawbridge's enormous weight, a monumental concrete pivot pier was constructed. The 66'-0"-wide structure originally carried a two-lane brick-paved roadway, one electric interurban track operated by the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway Company, and two railroad tracks. Reinforced concrete balustrades form the outside railing and separate the roadway from the tracks.
A 1915 hurricane severely damaged the bridge's long earthen approaches, but left the central portion and its draw span intact. The county replaced the washed-out embankments with concrete arches similar to those in the viaduct's central portion. Reconstructed from 1917 to 1922, the re-built bridge featured fifty-one new concrete arch spans at the north end and twenty-eight at the south. New V-shaped reinforced concrete abutments were also added at either end of the structure. Except for replacement of the draw span in 1988, the bridge has had few alterations over the years. The current structure, extending more than two miles across Galveston Bay, consists of 107 concrete arches and a steel bascule span. In 1938, the Texas Highway Department designed a new concrete highway bridge with a central moveable steel span, built by the Public Works Administration immediately east of the 1912 structure. In the early 1960s, the Texas Highway Department added a new high concrete bridge across the bay and raised the vertical elevation of the 1938 structure to eliminate its moveable span; together these two structures carry Interstate 45. Railway traffic continues to use the 1912 viaduct, but the roadway is closed to traffic.
GALVESTON CAUSEWAY HAERNo. TX-37
Original railroad owner was Gould Lines, Harriman Lines & Santa Fe. It had two standard railroad tracks and the interurban track that also doubled as the automobile crossing.
A new single track 124í-5Ē length bascule span was opened in 1988 and the 1911 bascule was removed.
The 1988 Bascule span was replaced with modern 383' lift bridge in 2012. The 1988 bascule was sold, reconditioned and moved to Petaloma CA