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Congress Avenue Bridge

Bat Bridge

Congress Avenue Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: July 31, 2019

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Congress Street Over Colorado River (Lady Bird Lake)
Austin: Travis County, Texas: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1909 By Builder/Contractor: William P. Carmichael Company of Williamsport, Indiana and Engineer/Design: Waddell and Harrington

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
119 Feet (36.3 Meters)
Structure Length
954 Feet (290.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
60 Feet (18.29 Meters)
8 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This concrete arch bridge has been altered extensively, and one of these alterations has also attracted a colony of bats. In fact, the bridge doesn't even function as an arch anymore. The bridge was widened first in 1956. In 1980, the bridge was even more extensively reconstructed. The deck and the top portion of the columns were cut off and a new prestressed concrete box beam superstructrure was installed on top. Combined with alterations to the piers, the box beam structure is much wider than the concrete arch bridge. As such, hidden under the box beams, the original concrete arch and its columns are still visible, but it is decorative only. A gap is visible betwen the top of the columns and the box beams indicating that the arch plays no structural role whatsoever. This bridge is thus not the best example of historic bridge preservation, although what was done here was still better than full demolition and replacement. 

The new prestressed concrete structure is composed of adjacent box beams. Although adjacent, there is an unusual gap between each box beam. These gaps turned out to be exactly the type of habitat that bats look for. Today, these gaps are home to a ton of bats. As a result, the bridge has become a significant local attraction on account of the bats, and is often known as the Bat Bridge. 

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

Above: Historical photo showing bridge as originally built.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Congress Avenue Bridge

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