Congress Avenue Bridge

The Congress Avenue Bridge, also known as the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, crosses over Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. Prior to the completion of Longhorn Dam in 1960, the bridge crossed the Colorado River.

The crossing is named after a part-time Austin resident and former Travis County commissioner after an Austin City Council meeting on November 16, 2006.2

The first crossing over the Colorado River at the Congress Avenue location was constructed circa 1870. The pontoon toll bridge lasted approximately five years before it was replaced by a new wooden structure at a cost of $80,000. An additional $20,000 was spent to macadamize dykes across the lowlands and for a culvert over Bouldin Branch.

A stronger iron bridge, funded by private parties, was opened on January 22, 1884 at a cost of $74,000. Designed and constructed by engineer C.Q. Horton, the crossing was purchased by the Travis County Road and Bridge Company and the City of Austin on June 18, 1886.

In 1891, the Travis County Road and Bridge Company refused maintenance on the crossing, leaving the county commissioners to negotiate an agreement. The city assumed complete control of maintenance and operation of the bridge.

The bridge was repaired in 1892 and received a new bridge deck from 1897 to 1901, a project that was half paid by the city. The superstructure was repainted in 1902.

By 1908, a new bridge was warranted and plans for a new concrete arch bridge came to fruition. The replacement structure opened on April 4, 1910 at a cost of $208,950.10. Sections of the old iron truss was reused in 1915 and 1922 to rebuild the bridge at Moore’s Crossing.

The Congress Avenue span was rehabilitated in 1980.1

The Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony, comprised of Mexican free-tailed bats. The bats reside beneath the road deck in gaps between the concrete component structures. Between 750,000 and 1.5 million bats live underneath the bridge each summer.3

During dusk, the bats emerge from underneath the bridge to fly primarily to the easy to feed.3