History

The first bridge across the Colorado River in this location was constructed in 1869 or 1871. The original structure was a pontoon toll bridge. In 1875, a new wooden toll bridge was constructed across the river. Bridge construction was finished at a cost of $80,000; an additional $20,000 was used to macadamize dykes across lowlands and a culvert over Bouldin Branch. On one occasion, a herd of cattle caused a span 50 feet above the water to give way. Only a few cattle were rescued.

On January 22, 1884, a modern iron bridge funded by private interests was opened at a cost of $74,000. There were sufficient spans to allow for the highest stage of overflow when the river flooded. The bridge was designed and built by engineer C. Q. Horton. The bridge was purchased by the Travis County Road and Bridge Co. and the City of Austin on June 18, 1886. By 1891, the Travis County Road and Bridge Co. refused to care for the bridge, and Travis County Commissioners negotiated an agreement whereby the City of Austin assumed complete control of the operation of the bridge. The city was forced to repair the bridge in 1892 and again in 1897, when the city paid half the cost for reflooring, a task that took until 1901 to complete. The bridge was repainted in 1902.

By 1908, traffic across the bridge had increased to the point where a new bridge was needed. Plans for a new concrete arch bridge were drawn as follows: “New Bridge: 910 FT Long iron bridge; 6 spans { 5-150FT Long, 1-160, 27 FT. Tall, 18 FT. Roadway, Bridge Piers are 45 FT. above ground. Will be built by King Bridge Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Strength: 2,000 LBS per FT. – But was built four times as strong”. The new bridge was opened on April 4, 1910, at a final cost of $208,950.10. Sections of the old iron bridge were later used in 1915 and 1922 to rebuild the bridge at nearby Moore’s Crossing.

The bridge was rehabilitated in 1980.

On November 16, 2006, the Austin City Council renamed the structure the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at its weekly meeting. Richards was also a part-time Austin resident and former Travis County Commissioner.