Texas bridges span rivers, creeks, and floodplains across the state. But they also represent history. Bridges reflect what materials were available during their construction and the prevailing economic conditions, the accepted engineering practices and popular architectural styles at the time, as well as the local political environment. Remarkably, you'll only have to go as far back as the early 20th century to find a time when most county roads in Texas were still dirt detours around natural barriers and "bridging" a stream or creek meant driving through it, not over it.
Road and bridge building improved after receiving a boost from Roosevelt's Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, which granted Texas almost 12 million dollars for new and improved cross-state travel. However, World War ll slowed the effort considerably and it wasn't until the 1950s when an interstate system of highways became a national priority. The bridge boom of the second half of the 20th century and its standardized use of materials and designs render many of our older bridges all the more historic for their unique characteristics. Bridges like Waco's Washington Street Bridge, a landmark truss bridge over the Brazos, the Scott Avenue Bridge over the Wichita River at Wichita Falls, and the Pecos River Bridge north of Del Rio are just a few of the many surviving examples of the state's early bridge-building legacy. Know of an old bridge in your community? It may deserve a listing on the National Register or repurposing for the hike and bike trail. The journey from abandonment to preservation has yet to be crossed for many of our neglected historic bridges.