Viaduct Flags a Source of Pride

 

Articles

There are at least two things for which Denisonians can be proud these days. They have a new viaduct across the former railroad yards and they have flags flying across it on special occasions.

Recently for the second time, I drove across the viaduct with Denison Yellow Jacket flags flying down both the north and southbound lanes. A few weeks prior, it was the U.S. and Texas flags flying in the breeze there.

Both times, it made me proud to be a Yellow Jacket and proud to be a Texan and proud to be the citizen of the U.S.A. Here I am dishing out a big dose of patriotism, and there is nothing wrong with that.

If I had my way and won the lottery or had plenty of money to pay to have someone put them up and take them down, some kind of flags would be flying over that viaduct every day. I know that is impossible, but that’s what I would like to see. I always get a lump in my throat when I see flags flying over the viaduct.

I think dignitaries being driven across the viaduct appreciate the flags flying in their honor too.

I hope visitors in town for the Friday night football game get a small doze of pride, even if it is for the opposing team.

Whoever made the decision a number of years ago to fly the flags, is to be congratulated. I’m just glad that with the completion of the new viaduct, that plan has been expanded to include the Yellow Jacket flags.

Denisonians, especially those living in South Denison, should be grateful for the smooth pavement, attractive viaduct that we now have from Munson Street to Crawford Street.

The work seemed to go smoothly and in allotted time in rebuilding the viaduct that sometime is called an overpass.

In November 2009 I attended a public meeting on the U.S. Highway 69 Railroad Overpass Bridge Replacement, held almost a year before the contract was let for the construction in August 2010.

Representatives of the Texas Department of Transportation were present to answer questions and explain how the project would proceed. The new viaduct is the same length as the one that was removed, one lane at a time, but the width was increased from 68 feet to 76 feet. Each sidewalk was increased from five feet to six feet wide.

The U.S. 69 viaduct that we drive across today is the fourth viaduct to serve the city. The first one was a wooden structure that carried a street car track and other traffic across the Austin Avenue route. People living and working north of Morgan Street had no trouble coming and going, but those living south of Morgan had a problem. The Katy’s Roundhouse, shops, and switch yards stretched from Lamar Avenue on the east, to Mirick Avenue on the west, and that meant a detour for those in South Denison to get to downtown.

That early-day problem was somewhat solved in the early 1880s, according to Jack Maguire in his book, “Katy’s Baby.” That’s when the wooden viaduct was built. While it was nothing like today’s new structure, it did carry the tracks of the “dummy line” and the first mule-powered streetcar, as well as provide a place for pedestrians to walk. Horses and wagons also probably crossed over the “yards” to get to town too.

Then in 1915, plans were completed for a Rusk-Austin Avenue span that caused a lot of unhappiness among certain people. Then the third one came along to the delight of the citizens in 1954.City leaders were divided on their acceptance of the plan for that second viaduct. In fact, opposition almost forced the city into a special election until the Council took some fast action to prevent it, saying there were no funds for such an election.

The Council issued a special letter to Denisonians outlining their reasons for the crooked viaduct. Fortunately, that crook was taken out when the 1954 viaduct was constructed. A story I heard around the newsroom for years was that one of the city councilmen had a business on Rusk Avenue at the north end of the viaduct, and he was determined that it would bring travelers in front of his business. That business no longer exists, and that councilman has long been deceased.

While the viaduct was completed as planned, Austin-Rusk avenues, the opposition’s argument turned out to be true and the viaduct became a nightmare for travelers from the very beginning. Even pedestrians complained that they didn’t feel safe walking across the crooked span. In those days fewer people had cars and there were a lot of walkers coming and going to work across the viaduct.

Many accidents took place on the dangerous twists and turns and many people lost their lives through the years that the crooked viaduct remained intact.

Then in 1954, the old viaduct was showing its age and a new $800,000 shortcut to downtown was opened by way of the Austin Avenue viaduct. When completed, the then-new viaduct relieved congested Armstrong Avenue, which then was Highway 75 and took traffic to Main Street.

Now the viaduct is called the U.S. 69 viaduct, which it is in the eyes of TxDOT, even though residents know that it begins and ends on Austin Avenue. Most of it is over a space of green grass since the car shops and even the Katy Railroad have pulled out.

As our brand new viaduct was being built there were times when two-way traffic on one side of the viaduct got a little congested, but not nearly as much as it could have. Drivers were pretty careful and considerate of the work going on and the different way of traveling. I’ve heard a few people say they were afraid to cross during the construction.

Today, all those worries are behind us as we zip along going north and south with left turn lanes at either end eliminating the congestion during football games and other events that might bring visitors into town.

Today, we have a shining new viaduct illuminated at night by attractive light fixtures, and, on special occasions, it is graced with United States, Texas and Yellow Jacket flags. It’s something for which we all should be thankful.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.