Traffic has rolled across the Montopolis Bridge, over the Colorado River, since 1938.
A small monument to the iconic gateway is now partially obscured by a new railing, and overshadowed by a new $750 expressway that’s being built by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
"That bridge was not a question, it had to stay,” said Agency Chairman Ray Wilkerson.
Tearing down the old bridge, Wilkerson said, was never an option.
"What I think it will be in the future, will be a tribute to it. This community will have something they can see, a monument that’s going to be historical in value and also in value to the community to use something they haven't had before,” said Wilkerson.
The entrance ramp to the bridge was permanently closed to traffic Monday morning shortly before 11:00. For the last drive across, in a private vehicle, Wilkerson was joined by agency Director Mike Hiligenstein and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez.
"Realizing I was one of 3 people in the car, taking the last drive over the bridge, was really, really, really awesome,” said State Rep. Rodriguez ( D ) Austin.
The state lawmaker, who represents the area linked by the old bridge, said he's thankful the steel structure will remain.
"It’s important, because its symbolic of how important this community is to all of Austin. The Bridge represents the past, but now it also represents the future,” said Rodriguez.
The bridge will be an important link in an 18 miles of hike and bike trails along this expressway. But its use will not be limited just to that, according to Heiligenstein.
"This bridge will rival anything in the country, in terms of being repurposed."
While Heiligenstein took a back seat in the last car across, he is the driving force of the vision for what the structure will become.
"I think it’s going to be used for festivals, it’s going to be used for pedestrian and bikes, you look down, there is quite a bit of pavement width, I can see arts and crafts booths on one side and I can see people walking on the other. I think it’s going to become a community gathering place that frankly I think will be very important for east Austin,” said Heiligenstein.
Southbound traffic from downtown is now being diverted to a new ramp and the new expressway bridge over the Colorado River. All the roadwork and the renovation work on the bridge is scheduled to be completed by august of 2020.