Ron Kirk Bridge Divides Dallas City Leaders

Continental Viaduct renamed for former Dallas Mayor

The Continental Viaduct hike and bike path over the Trinity River was renamed the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge Wednesday, but it came with bumps in the road at City Hall.

Attorney Ron Kirk served as United States Trade Representative for President Barack Obama and before that he was the first African-American to serve as Dallas mayor.

"He was a great bridge builder, a consensus builder, bringing together individuals," Dallas City Councilman Erik Wilson said.

The viaduct was converted into a pedestrian path after the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge beside it made the old span obsolete for vehicles. It has since become a popular gathering spot for exercise and sightseeing.

Dallas Pastor Zan Holmes said some people consider bridges "walls turned sideways."

"Indeed it was a bridge moment when walls were turned sideways and we walked across those walls to elect Ron Kirk," Holmes said.

Kirk is also an original supporter of the 1998 referendum to build a park and toll road along the Trinity River in Dallas.

Several Dallas City Council members voted against the name change Wednesday, chiefly because of Kirk's longtime support for the still-controversial roadway.

Councilman Philip Kingston said the road alignment Kirk backed will wreck the eastern approach to the bridge renamed for Kirk Wednesday.

"It absolutely will ruin that park," Kingston said. "To name this bridge for Ambassador Kirk is a provocation."

Councilman Mark Clayton said too many people still oppose the roadway Kirk supported.

"They're going to see something that stuck them in the eye," Clayton said. "I'm going to vote no, because to honor a man is give him something that everyone in the community can view as something that honors his true legacy."

Councilman Lee Kleinman, a parkway supporter, lashed back at the renaming opponents.

"Really, shame on my colleagues, some of my colleagues, for taking this opportunity to grandstand on a controversial topic – to take something good, to take something positive for this city and turn it into adversity. It really speaks to the integrity of the council members that want to tear down this city and it upsets me very, very much," Kleinman said.

The renaming passed 11-to-3 with Councilman Rickey Callahan, a parkway supporter, absent.

Reached by phone, Kirk said he was in New York City on business Wednesday. He said he was humbled and honored by naming the span in his honor.

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