Hays Street Bridge
Location: San Antonio, TX (view map)
Type: Whipple Truss with Phoenix Columns and a pin-connected Pratt approach span
Year Built: 1881 (Whipple span) / 1887 (Pratt span) / 1910 (Relocated and widened) / 2010 (Rehabilitated for pedestrians)
Crosses: Southern Pacific Railroad
Built in 1881 for railroad use, converted to vehicular use in 1910, and closed to traffic in 1982, the Hays Street Bridge in San Antonio, Texas is being restored for pedestrian use. The model project is an example of neighborhood revitalization through historic bridge preservation.
The bridge's main span is an example of a Whipple truss with Phoenix column compression members, one of only a few such surviving examples in the country. The trusses are composed of wrought iron with some cast iron components. The Whipple truss was the the most common first-generation long-span railroad truss. Most were replaced by Pennsylvania trusses or cantilever trusses. By the early 1900's, increasing train weights necessitated the replacement of the type. 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. A notable exception is the Hays Street Bridge. The trusses were relocated in 1910 and widened to carry two lanes of traffic. After years of neglect, the bridge was closed in 1982.
Despite years of abandonment, the bridge was purchased by the City of San Antonio to be restored! Sparks Engineering, an engineering firm specializing in historic rehabilitation, is the designer of the project. The majority of the funding comes from a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. The revitalized bridge will stand as a monument to the craftsmen and engineers who built it 129 years ago! From rail passengers in the late 1800's to motorists in the 1900's and to bicyclists and pedestrians of the 2000's, the bridge stands as a shared experience of many different generations, past, present, and future!