Breaking News
More () »

Major construction project could disrupt popular tubing route

A portion of the Comal River will be closed to tubers until at least Memorial Day, TxDOT says.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Tubing the Comal River is expected to be affected by an upcoming construction project in New Braunfels. The question for locals: by how much?

The Texas Department of Transportation is set to begin a $4.5 million reconstruction project on the San Antonio Street bridge over the Comal River. 

The bridge was built in 1923. The City of New Braunfels says construction is necessary because "the bridge does not meet current structural and functional standards." 

"This is really, really big for the city," said Greg Malatek, public works director for the City of New Braunfels.

Malatek said the vehicle lanes across the bridge are very narrow, and the project will including widening the lanes to 15 feet. He said city officials are concerned with safety as many vehicles are not able to cross the bridge, including emergency responders.

"Especially our fire trucks could not use it because it's too narrow, so that means they have to go a couple of blocks out of their way to get over the Comal if they have an emergency call," Malatek said. 

Malatek also said the sidewalks will be widened from four feet to eight feet, and the railing will be replaced. However, the iconic architecture beneath the bridge will remain.

"It has real, real pretty architecture. So that was one of the things is that the substructure will not be touched, just the upper structure will be replaced," he said.

The city posted on their website that the Comal River will be closed after Labor Day and reopened on Memorial Day 2020.

However, City Councilman and business owner Matthew Hoyt said he's working with city and state officials to find an alternate plan for the busy spring tourist season.

"Closing the river to tourism would not just impact us as tubing outfitters," Hoyt said. 

He has owned Corner Tubes for the last eight years and said his business alone sees tens of thousands of customers in one season.

"We've got employees who work here, some who've worked here for five, six years and longer, and telling them that they don't have a job in the spring is not really an option for us," he said.

Hoyt said the ideas include constructing a tunnel or scaffolding so tubers could pass under the bridge during construction.

"We've been trying to figure out creative ways to ensure a safe passage under the bridge for next season," said Hoyt.

He said there are many businesses and jobs that would be affected if the river were closed four months out of their seven month busy season.

"You're talking about restaurants, talking about bars, you've got hotels, HOT taxes, all sorts of businesses that are hurt directly or indirectly by tourism," Hoyt said. "The impact would be substantial."

Hoyt said he's hoping to find a solution in the upcoming months.

"If you have plans to come here for spring break, if you have plans to come here in the springtime, don't cancel them. We're gonna be open for business one way or the other," he added. "We're gonna figure this out. We're very optimistic."

The bridge will be completely closed as of Sept. 3; TxDOT says water recreation will not be allowed in a segment of the Comal River near the construction project.

The city has offered a map of detours for drivers who rely on the San Antonio Street bridge. The primary detour will avoid the bridge by utilizing Comal, Garden and Lincoln roads.

Credit: City of New Braunfels

Water recreation under the bridge is expected to resume Memorial Day 2020, TxDOT says. The City has more information available on their website.

Before You Leave, Check This Out