As the best Westlake mover, Sir has completed countless moves in the area and he instantly fell in love with the Pennybacker Bridge the first moment he laid eyes on it. Percy V. Pennybacker Jr. lived between 1895 and 1963 and was a civil engineer in Texas, who was also a pioneer of welded structures, especially the ones that were destined for bridges. In the early 1900s, he was an employee at the Texas Highway Department, doing what he knew best and that was designing bridges.
Pennybacker became a civil engineer after graduating the University of Texas right here in Austin. During World War I he was also an Army Air Service captain, continuing his activity as an engineer in Texas and Kansas once the war was over. It is considered that Pennybacker managed to save the American state millions of dollars by proposing the use of welding in the design and construction of heavy stress bridges, as a much more efficient method in comparison with the use of rivets.
This idea came to him during World War II, changing the way bridges were built up to that point. Even after retiring from his position in the Texas Highway Department, Pennybacker continued to unroll activities as an engineer, in the benefit of Austin. For his activity and pioneering, the Texas Society of Professional Engineers offered him the “Outstanding Engineer” honor. He also was responsible for bringing the American Welding Society to fruition, while also being a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Pennybacker Bridge was constructed between 1980 and 1982. At the time construction of the bridge started, it was the second bridge of its kind that was attempted to be built with the new technology Pennybacker pioneered. Standing 100 feet above water, the bridge crosses Lake Austin. The steel that composes the bridge was designed in Japan and produced in South Korea, being created to reach the amber color it has today in a period of four years only. A quantity of steel that exceeded 600 million pounds was used for the bridge, being sandblasted before being used on the construction site, this process allowed the steel to reach a uniform coloring under the wear and tear of the weather.
The total costs of the bridge were $10 million, having four lanes for vehicles and being awarded with the Excellence in Highway mention from the Federal Highway Administration. It is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Texas, providing a scenic driving experience to Westlake residents due to the arched weathering-steel frames and gorgeous hills that can be seen on either side of the bridge. It is also a highly transited bridge, as more than 48,000 vehicles use this bridge on an average day. 10 years earlier, only 22,000 vehicles crossed the Pennybacker Bridge, which shows that the popularity of Westlake has grown exponentially.
It is easily noticeable that no part of the bridge touches the water.. Having a length of 1,150 feet or 351 m and an arch span of 600 feet or 183 m, the bridge was made this way because Lake Austin is a recreational lake, highly popular among water-skiers and boaters. Thus, 72 steel cables support the suspension span, allowing boats to go underneath the bridge without a problem. When the bridge was finished, it was only the second in the world that had this particular design.
The four lanes of the bridge designed for cars, two lanes for each direction, are separated in the middle by a barrier wall for protection. There is also a pedestrian lane and a bike lane, with a width of 6 feet or 1.8 m. The easy access for bikes on the bridge made it popular among bikers as well. And in the south part of the bridge there is convenient access to the lake and there is also a turnaround point under the bridge.
Due to its stunning design, the Pennybacker Bridge won first place in the Federal Highway Administration’s Excellence in Highway Design competition, back in 1984. In 1992, it was selected as the most innovative example of Austin architecture by the members of the Consulting Engineers Council of Texas, located in Austin. If you want to enjoy the outdoors and beautiful views over the lake and the surrounding landscape, take the hiking trails found on either side of 360, which will take you closer to the bluffs that provide a gorgeous view of the Pennybacker bridge and the Austin skyline!