Dallas Must Do Without Calatrava Bridge Design

TxDOT moving ahead with standard I-30 bridge over Trinity River


Three "signature bridges" were planned to boost the Dallas skyline, but it looks as though the city will only have one.

State transportation officials are moving ahead with an Interstate 30 bridge over the Trinity River without the design of noted architect Santiago Calatrava.

"We don’t have the money to build the bridge the way he designed it," Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said.

The state had agreed to pay for a standard bridge if the city did not raise enough for the more stylish Calatrava design.

The existing I-30 bridge was first completed in the 1950s as part of the DFW Turnpike, and it has reached the end of its useful life, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Because it needs expensive repairs, state engineers want to begin building the replacement next year.

"I think we've had some serious bumps in the road concerning the funding environment, so that's when you need to take a step back and take stock of what your strategy is," TxDOT spokeswman Cynthia Northrop White said.

In May 2008, large holes appeared through the surface of the bridge, which required closing the road for immediate repairs.

"If we're going to spend additional money, we'd like to replace the bridge and increase the capacity versus continuing to maintain, so we're going to move ahead with replacing the bridge as soon as we can," Northrop White said.

A briefing to be heard by the City Council Trinity River Corridor Committee on Tuesday will say that the state intends to begin construction on a standard replacement bridge by mid-2012.

The standard bridge would be constructed on piers in the river instead of with suspension cables and tall arches over the river as Calatrava envisioned.

The Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge that will connect West Dallas and North Oak Cliff is currently under construction.

A third signature bridge in the city's plan was to be an Interstate 35E replacement, but that bridge was never designed, and no funding has ever been identified.

Investors along the river have counted on the "signature bridges" along with other long-delayed elements of the Dallas Trinity River plan as a magnet for future growth and development.

John Benda, the owner of Fuel City on Riverfront Boulevard near I-30, said he is very disappointed to hear the new plan. He purchased additional land with the bridges in mind, he said.

"I understand the economy is not where it should be, but the economy goes and comes, and the bridge will last forever," he said.

He said he thought it would be better to wait and construct the bridge in the future rather than build "a conventional bridge that will add nothing but maybe traffic to Dallas."

But customers at his filling station were strongly in favor of a better bridge sooner rather than later.

"We need a bridge, OK?" Kathy Finn said. "It don’t have to have the fancy design. No. We need a new bridge."

"I think it should be fixed and made better to be driven on and not wait on something that [will] maybe and maybe not happen," Patrick Land said.

"We don't need to have it fancy right now," Brian Corrigan said. "We've got a lot of other priorities, I think, for our city."

TxDOT’s standard bridge design would include five to sxi lanes in each direction across the river instead of the three there are now.

Northrop White said that would cost about $170 million, and that agency is still working to finalize that much money.

Suhm said she would ask Calatrava to design a bicycle and pedestrian element for the scaled-down I-30 bridge that could revive some of the "signature" appearance elements.

The City Council will be asked on April 13 to approve $8 million from different City Hall sources to pay Calatrava for the additional design work.

The Trinity River Committee will review that expense at Tuesday’s meeting.

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