Austin History: Pennybacker Bridge

As we delve into the rich history of Austin, Texas, it’s impossible to overlook the awe-inspiring Pennybacker Bridge. Not only is this structure a marvel of modern engineering, but it also symbolizes the spirit of Austin – innovative, strong, and captivatingly beautiful. Let’s journey through the fascinating history of the Pennybacker Bridge.


The Pennybacker Bridge, often known as the “360 Bridge,” is an iron-arch bridge that graces the Texas State Highway Loop 360. The planning for this bridge began in the late 1970s, spurred by the desire to connect the northern and southern parts of the Loop 360 highway without disturbing the natural beauty of the Austin landscape, particularly the scenic overlook at Cliffs of the Colorado, which offers spectacular views of Lake Austin.

Design and Construction

Percy V. Pennyback an engineer from the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation, pioneered the design of the bridge. Pennyback’s design was unique – it proposed a weathering steel bridge that would eliminate the need for paint and blend with the surrounding hills and cliffs.

Construction on the bridge began in 1979 and was completed in 1982. The 1,150-foot-long bridge was built entirely on land, without scaffolding in the water, to ensure that Lake Austin’s natural environment was not disturbed during its construction. This engineering feat was achieved by erecting large temporary towers that supported the bridge’s arch ribs during construction.

Opening and Reception

The Pennybacker Bridge was officially opened to the public in December 1982. It was met with wide acclaim and quickly became one of Austin’s most significant landmarks. The American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the Pennybacker Bridge first prize in the Long Span category in its Prize Bridge Competition in 1984, further solidifying its position as a premier architectural structure.


Today, the Pennybacker Bridge is more than a means of transportation; it’s a testament to Austin’s commitment to the preservation of natural beauty and an iconic symbol of the city’s skyline. The bridge continues to attract tourists and locals alike, who often hike up the northern hill to capture stunning photographs of the bridge against the backdrop of Lake Austin.

Moreover, the Pennybacker Bridge has significantly contributed to Austin’s growth by improving transportation and access. It’s an enduring symbol of the city’s past, present, and future – a bridge that connects more than just two parts of a highway, but also the heart of Austin’s natural charm with its modern dynamism.

As we drive through the rust-colored Pennybacker Bridge, we’re not just traversing an architectural marvel but also travelling through a piece of Austin’s rich history. Whether you’re a resident of Austin or a visitor exploring the city, a trip across the Pennybacker Bridge or a visit to the overlook is a must to truly appreciate this extraordinary union of nature, engineering, and history.

Here at Float On Boat Rentals, when you rent a boat on Lake Austin, you’ll take off right under the Pennybacker Bridge. There’s no better photo op!

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Austin, TX 78746

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