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Section 3: Railing on Historic Bridges

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Additional Guidelines

Federal law protects historically significant bridges, and any rehabilitation or improvement projects on them require special attention. Bridges designated as historic and listed or eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places introduce a special railing challenge because the historic railing may not meet current standards. As soon as a project is determined to involve a historically significant bridge, the district should contact the TxDOT Bridge Division, as directed in the Bridge Division's Historic Bridge Manual. The director of the Texas Historical Commission is the designated State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for Texas, and the SHPO and TxDOT are responsible for determining what effect any proposed project will have on a historic bridge.

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Historic Bridge Railing Options

Original railing on a historic bridge likely will not meet current crash-test requirements. It also likely will not meet current standards for railing height (a minimum of 27 inches) and limits on the size of openings in the railing (small enough that a 6-inch sphere cannot pass through them). Options for upgrading the railing on historic bridges usually include the following:

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  • Place an approved traffic railing inboard of the existing railing, leaving the existing railing in place. This is sometimes appropriate when a pedestrian walkway exists on or is planned for the bridge.
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  • Replace the existing railing with an acceptable approved railing. Possible close matches to some historical railing include Types T1P, T66, T401, T402, C402, T411, C411, C412 or C66.
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  • Remove the current railing and incorporate it into a new acceptable railing. This may be appropriate in rare instances where an existing railing is especially decorative.
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  • Design a special railing to match the appearance of the existing railing. It may not be necessary to crash test the new railing if the geometry and calculated strength equal or exceed a crash-tested railing.

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