Construction of the massive Madrid Trestle commenced in the early 1970s at taxpayer expense as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Saylorville Reservoir project. The bridge was designed to replace an older steel trestle that was just to the north of the current bridge. This older bridge had steel supports and concrete footing pads and was not designed for the higher water levels that would come from damning the Des Moines River downstream. The new bridge was a modern DPG bridge with concrete piers designed to accommodate the higher water levels envisaged from creation of the new lake. The bridge was completed ca. 1973, at which point the older bridge was demolished, except for the western concrete abutment that was left in place.
The 1970s were a turbulent period for Iowa's railroads, and the Madrid Trestle would be caught up in the collapse of one the state's major carriers, the Milwaukee Road. The rail line running atop the bridge was the Milwaukee Road's E/W Chicago to Omaha mainline, and by the 1970s the railroad was in bad shape. Mismanagement and financial fraud left the railroad in such shape that a once profitable system was pushed into filing for bankruptcy in 1977. A desperate mass-abandonment was filed in 1980 as the railroad attempted to retreat to a financially strong core system. Thousands of miles of railroad were abandoned, including the entire Pacific Extension. Several lines in Iowa were also abandoned, including the E/W mainline over the Madrid Trestle.
More than half of the former mainline across Iowa would be torn out, but the Madrid Trestle would be saved from immediate abandonment. The Chicago and Northwestern Railway would step in to buy a small piece of the former MILW mainline, including the Madrid Trestle. Traffic was never very great, and dwindled over the years. Union Pacific would take over the CNW in 1995, and by the early 2000s, the only traffic on the line consisted of a few short locals to Woodward. Lack of traffic would cause the line to be abandoned completely in 2003, and the bridge deck would be removed in 2004 for reuse in construction of the new Kate Shelley Bridge at Boone.
However, this would not be the end for the bridge. The towering piers would stand alone for just six years before the builders of the new High Trestle Trail would make magnificent re-use of them for a new bike bridge that would be the center point of the system. Even the old abutment from the original steel trestle would be refurbished as a lookout point to view the new bridge. Re-christened High Trestle Trail Bridge, it now stands as a beautiful example of rail to trail conversions, and will wow bicyclists and pedestrians with incredible views for years to come.