The Hays Street Bridge connecting Hays Street between Austin and Cherry Streets on the near Eastside of San Antonio officially re-opened for pedestrian and bicycle traffic on July 20. The bridge was built in 1881 for railroad use and moved to its present site for vehicular use in 1910. In 1982 the bridge was deemed dangerous and closed.
According to TexasEscapes.com the Hays Street Bridge is a viaduct consisting of two wrought iron truss spans (one Phoenix Whipple 225-ft span, and one Pratt 130-ft span), and approximately 1000-linear feet of concrete approaches. Records of the Phoenix Bridge Company archived at the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware show that the Whipple truss dates from 1881 and was reconstructed from one or more salvaged spans over the Nueces River west of San Antonio.
BridgeMapper says the Hays Street Bridge is composed of a Whipple Truss and a pin-connected Pratt approach span. The Whipple Truss segment with Phoenix column compression members is one of only a few such surviving examples in the country. BridgeMapper says that while railroads often recycled their bridges to carry roads over their lines, Whipple trusses were rarely moved since they were much longer and much rarer than other types. The Hays Street Bridge is a notable exception. The trusses were relocated to the present site around 1910 and widened to carry two lanes of traffic.
The City of San Antonio purchased the bridge and rehabilitated it as a bicycle and pedestrian facility using a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. Sparks Engineering, Inc. was the design consultant for the project. The rehabilitation project incorporates benches, interpretive signage covering the history of the bridge, and a public art component along the new approach railings. When I visited the bridge on a recent hot and sunny Sunday afternoon nobody else was on the bridge. Hopefully with the cooler weather approaching more people will come and walk or bike this elegant historic bridge.