The Hays Street Bridge, constructed as two separate railroad bridges in the late nineteenth century, is the oldest metal truss bridge in San Antonio. Since 1910, when it was moved to its current location, it has served as a viaduct connecting the east side of the city to downtown.
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By the early twentieth century, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway Company planned to expand their tracks across east-west streets between downtown and the city’s east side. The city agreed to the expansion provided the railroad erected a viaduct for pedestrians and vehicular traffic to cross the tracks.
In 1910, the railroad moved two wrought iron spans from elsewhere on its lines and widened them from 25 feet to construct a bridge over the tracks at Hays Street. The longer of the two spans, dating to 1881, came from a railroad crossing at the Nueces River west of Uvalde, Texas.
In 1982, structural concerns forced the closing of the bridge. It fell into a state of disrepair and faced demolition until a group of supporters, including engineers, preservationists, East side residents and bike enthusiasts, petitioned the city to save the bridge. As a result of their efforts, the bridge received $2.89 million in federal TEA-21 funding for restoration in 2001. It was also designated a Texas Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a City of San Antonio Local Landmark. The City of San Antonio assumed ownership of the bridge from Union Pacific in 2007 and began restoration work in 2009, completing it in 2010.
Renovated for pedestrian and bicycle use, the historic bridge serves as a gateway linking downtown to the Dignowity Hill Historic District and to the Salado Creek Hike and Bike Trail.