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The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

We don't do rustic covered bridges here in Texas; we don't do massive Golden Gate spans either.

But that doesn't mean the state isn't home to some beautiful pieces of bridge art.

You can look for abandoned bridges here. Here, though, are a dozen of Texas's best that are still open in one way or another.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

12. Suspension Bridge, Waco The fabled Suspension Bridge in Waco is now pedestrian only, but when it opened in 1870 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi. Getting the building materials to the remoteness of Waco was almost as difficult as the construction itself.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

11. Queen Isabella Causeway, South Padre Island Connecting the Texas mainland with South Padre Island, this two-mile-long span includes a graceful curve and arch.

It famously collapsed ten years ago when barges rammed into it:

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

Eight people died, but since it happened just four days after 9/11, the event is largely unknown outside of the immediate area.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

10. Rainbow Bridge, Bridge City The first time I encountered this thing was at night, driving from Houston. Naturally, we'd been on nothing but flat land forever, but somehow in the distance I saw car lights waaay up in the sky and wondered what the hell was going on.

Why is the Rainbow Bridge so high? (It's the tallest in Texas.) The city of Beaumont thought it would interfere with shipping, so the builders had to agree to make it high enough to accommodate -- get this -- a U.S. Navy ship that dirigibles hooked up to, which was the tallest ship in the fleet at the time.  

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9. Regency Bridge, Mills & San Saba counties Do you want to drive on a single-lane, wood-surface span that locals call "The Swinging Bridge"? Have at it. The rest of us will be content to appreciate it from afar, or on foot.

The wooden planking was set on fire in 2003, but has been restored. For the daring.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

8. Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge Opened only two years ago, this simple but elegant span is about 1.7 miles long and connects the bustling metropolises of Lake Dallas and Little Elm. For what it's worth, I met my wife while we were both covering the drowning of a family of four in Lake Lewisville, but as far as I know no historical marker has been installed.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

7. Pecos River Bridge, near Del Rio Down near Mexico way, this was built in 1957 after several other bridges had washed out. Here's what it looks like approaching it -- you get no sense of what you're about to cross:

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

 

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6. Suspension Bridge, Bluff Dale Only open to pedestrians, this Erath County bridge was on Preservation Texas' 2009 list of endangered places because it has deteriorated. Still pretty, though.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

5. Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas Dallas is building an amazing boondoggle a visionary world-class-city project involving the Trinity River, which includes dramatic bridges by architect Santiago Calatrava. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is one of them, and will cost about $100 million or so. It does say "Dallas," don't it?

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4. Fred Hartman Bridge, Baytown and La Porte I was tempted to go with the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge, which also spans the Ship Channel, only because to do a story on it I stood near its highest point during construction, looking over the edge of the gap between two sections. But that span is nowhere near as eye-catching as the Fred Hartman, with its sail motif.  

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

3. Highway 78 Bridge, Red River They tried a suspension bridge to connect Texas and Oklahoma, but it fell apart in the `30s. The replacement took no chances with fancy-schmancy engineering theories and went with a solid truss design.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

2. Martin Luther King Bridge, Port Arthur We're just guessing here, but we bet there are still a bunch of East Texans who refer to this by its original Gulfgate Bridge name. We can't begin to think why.

The Bridges of Texas: 12 Beauties

1. Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin No collection of Texas bridges is complete without the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. As a piece of architecture, it's not that interesting, but the bats sure do like it.


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