Day Trips: FM 457 Bridge, Sargent

I can see for miles


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Best new observation deck on the Gulf Coast:

The FM 457 bridge from a distance looks like a spaceship landed on the barrier island at Sargent Beach. From the top of the seven-story bridge, the flat coastal plains and Gulf of Mexico spread out before your car's windshield.

In April, the Texas Department of Transportation opened the bridge that replaced the last swing bridge on the Texas coast. Originally a wooden bridge over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connected the mainland to the island. The final swing bridge was a steel barge put in use in 1975. It could take 15 minutes or longer for the roadway to move to allow ship traffic to pass.

It took five employees and upward of $350,000 a year to operate the bridge 24 hours a day. The new bridge cost around $43 million.


What makes the new bridge unique are the steep turns at either end of the span over the ship channel. TxDOT calls it the "corkscrew bridge" and locals call the circular approaches the "Hot Wheels track."

Tim, the owner of Sargent Beach RV Park on the island, said they had their first attempted jumper within 48 hours of the bridge opening. Law enforcement took the man away before he could perform a swan dive from the bridge.


The FM 457 bridge at Sargent Beach is 25 miles south of Bay City. There are approximately 120 homes on the island, most of them second homes or vacation rentals. What is left of the beach due to erosion has been preserved by large granite blocks on the narrow strip of island. To take a virtual drive on the bridge, go to www.txdot.gov.


1,500th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gulf Coast, Sargent Beach, Texas Department of Transportation, FM 457, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Bay City, Sargent Beach RV Park

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