Plans are underway to reopen Bastrop's historic Old Iron Bridge to the public. City officials are prepared to allocate $15 million toward bridge repairs without affecting Bastrop's existing tax rate at $0.5128 per $100 valuation.

The city is in Phase 2 of a pending grant to cover needed bridge repairs. According to City Manager Sylvia Carrillo, further grant details are expected over the following months.

“We’re just waiting on those grants to see how much funds that we would have to come out of pocket for, but we are prepared to come out of pocket 100% if we need to,” Bastrop City Council Member Jimmy Crouch said.

Restorations will allow the bridge to reopen for pedestrian and bike traffic across the Colorado River.

“The bridge and all of the improvements in downtown is hopefully meant to spur some of that pedestrian mix into the retail,” Carrillo said.

One of the earliest uses of mid-19th century Parker truss design remaining in Texas, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. After its closure in 2018 due to safety concerns, the bridge remains an important icon for the city.

“[The bridge] was old enough to be a reminder of what things used to be,” local historian Ken Kessellus said. “When it was open, I would say that you could go from the 21st century into the 19th century by crossing that time tunnel.”

The timeline
  • 1890: Original iron bridge privately built charging a toll
  • 1923: Current bridge built by Kansas City Bridge Co. for $167,000
  • 1924: Current bridge completed and open to the public
  • 1990: The steel bridge added to the National Register of Historic Places
  • 1992: Bridge closed for vehicular traffic
  • 2018: Bridge closed to the public
Local traditions

The bridge, which has attracted various padlocks, is at the center of many Bastrop traditions. Kessellus founded The Society of Bridge Spitters in the 1980s. Spitting off the bridge, individuals would be awarded a certificate complete with a forged signature of Opie Taylor from "The Andy Griffith Show".

"We had to make up our own entertainment, so we'd be having a party somewhere and drink, and I would say, 'Let's go spit [off] the bridge,'" Kessellus said. "That got a lot of attention."

Happening soon

The Save Our Bridge organization will celebrate the bridge’s 100th anniversary from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 9. If possible, the event will involve lighting the bridge.