Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 5

Rebuilding the Fischer Store Road Bridge

During the 2015 Memorial Day weekend, a flood of historic proportions struck the Wimberley Valley area. Overnight rainfall of up to 13 inches fell onto an already saturated Blanco River watershed, poured into the Blanco River and moved downstream toward Wimberley at unprecedented levels. The raging Blanco River ultimately surged to 44 feet, crushing the previous record of 32 feet set in 1926. Hundreds of homes were swept from their foundation and destroyed in the rushing water. Twelve people were killed during the flood, and a vital bridge that crossed the Blanco River was floated off of its pillars and demolished in the river below.

Fischer Store Road connects Ranch Road 32 to Ranch Road 2325, one of the few major roads into Wimberley and on to US Highway 290 into Austin. The loss of the bridge cut off an essential part of the county’s transportation network, causing public safety and quality of life issues for hundreds of families in southwestern Hays County. Families on the southwestern side of the bridge could no longer commute to the Wimberley Valley without a 50-mile detour, which took them through Comal and Blanco counties first. The effects of this loss of infrastructure were felt by not only the citizens, but also by the schools and businesses in the areas along with the county’s emergency responders.

During the weekend of the flood, state and federal officials visited the area to survey the damage, offering their resources and pledging to do whatever necessary to rebuild this vital link. Through a partnership between Hays County and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), construction on the bridge began in November 2015. The estimated completion date of May 2016 was ambitious, but, through extraordinary efforts, work was finished three months early. With TxDOT persistence and round-the-clock work by the Dan Williams Company, the bridge opened to traffic on February 23, 2016.

Hays County hosted and Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley presided over the celebration of the grand opening of the new Fischer Store Road Bridge on February 26, 2016, which was attended by over 300 area residents and representatives from local and state agencies. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, State Senator Donna Campbell, TxDOT Commissioner Will Conley and Hays County Judge Bert Cobb were all on hand to speak and celebrate with the community for this much anticipated event.

The Memorial Day Flood was a tragic event for Wimberley and Hays County. The scars remaining on the area will be visible for many years to come. Bridges have been unavoidable metaphors of life, and rebuilding the Fischer Store Road Bridge and opening it to the community was more than just a transportation project. It is a symbol of the resilience of this community, its county and its state. As Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin said, it was “through our collaboration and partnership with Hays County and the state of Texas that we were successful on this project.”

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