With dozens of newly constructed bridges all along the Waco District's I-35 corridor, eye-catching street names have become part of the bridges in many of the cities along the 80-mile stretch of interstate. The names are designed to be highly visible to the motorists traveling below.
"The street name actually becomes part of the bridge itself," I-35 Information Officer Jodi Wheatley says, describing the unique engraved look of the lettering. "It's a subtle but nice touch that seems to set each community apart from the others in the district."
Wheatley says the bridge rail, lettering styles and street names used by the various cities were chosen with input from community members early in the planning process. TxDOT bridge engineers designed the bridge structures to incorporate the community's aesthetic preferences, so each city along the corridor has a slightly different look. The bridge rail aesthetic included the street name which was created by casting the letters into the rail.
"The letter imprints can be created with Styrofoam attached to the rail formwork," explains Courtney Holle, a transportation engineer supervisor in the Bridge Division. "Other forming material can be used in place of the Styrofoam. The street name mold can be made from one multi-letter mold or individual molds per letter and assembled on site."
Once the letter molds are attached to the outside rail form, Holle says, rail forms are installed, ready for the concrete of the rail to be placed. When the concrete has cured and gained strength, the forms are removed. Any remaining Styrofoam is then dug out of the concrete, leaving the letters indented into the surface. "To make it easier to read, the inside of the letters are often painted to increase the contrast between them and the flat foreground," she says.
"In the rare occasion that an error is made during the casting process, the concrete around the letters containing the error or the whole street name has to be removed," Holle says. "It's generally a good idea to recast the whole street name because different batches of concrete will vary in color. It's easier to align the letters in the street name when recasting the whole section."
The cost of adding a street name to the rail is negligible in comparison to the base aesthetic concrete bridge rail, according to Holle. The process of casting an aesthetic concrete rail with multiple windows is precise and time consuming, so it does not increase the complexity much more to add the street name.
"I think the engraved look of the street names adds some personality to the bridge," Wheatley says. "Yes, we still have the large green signs on the side of the road, but I think most people appreciate the engraved ones also. I think it helps drivers orient themselves to where they are while passing through a city they might not be familiar with, and gives the interstate an appealing look."
I-35 Public Information Officer