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Dallas Moves Forward With Cheaper Calatrava Bridge Plan

By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News
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The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calitrava.

The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calitrava.

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Wednesday, the City Council approved giving Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava $10.7 million to redesign portions of his second “signature” bridge crossing the Trinity River into downtown to cut costs on the final project.

The first such bridge, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, is already under construction. Wednesday’s vote will give Calatrava, who also designed the earlier bridge, the additional money to reconfigure a more frugal design. But Wednesday’s 14-1 vote didn’t pass without some nay saying.

“Let’s be smart with our money,” said District 14 councilwoman Angela Hunt.

Hunt balked at the idea of sending any more money to the architect, saying the city should opt to build a more standard and affordable bridge altogether.

“We have one Calatrava Bridge, and it seems like one should be enough when we can go forward and build a plain vanilla bridge,” she said.

Hunt means a standard TxDOT bridge the state will pay for. The current span off I-30 into downtown over the Trinity River is clearly showing wear. Federal grants and private money have been raised to cover the Calatrava “extras” on the span – which is dubbed the Margaret McDermott Bridge because of private donations – but Hunt thinks, in today’s economy, the timing is all wrong.

“We have the prize, we already have the Calatrava Bridge,” Hunt said. “Let’s be frugal in this economy, and it’s symbolic as well.”

She was the only councilmember to vote against the plan.

“Respectfully, Ms. Hunt, I disagree,” said District 3 councilman Dave Neumann. “I do think that an improved signature-style I-30 Margaret McDermott bridge will bring economic development. It opens the door to Oak Cliff and West Dallas and the western part of our city.”

Craig Holcomb, director of the Trinity Commons Foundation, called the vote a major step. The foundation helped set up donations for the bridge.

“When I’m out in the community, people say, ‘What’s going to happen?’ This is one of those steps that could mean next year we have the second Calatrava bridge under construction,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb expressed confidence in the architect’s ability to find creative ways to cut costs without sacrificing style.

“We are giving him a budget and saying, ‘You have to live within it and you have to design something that’s spectacular,’” Holcomb said. “We’ll have a Calatrava arch of some sort.”

Dallas resident Fred Peterson said he understands Hunt’s concerns, but still thinks the upscale bridges are worthwhile.

“It’ll bring attention to Dallas and kind of showcase the town he said,” he said. “In this day and time you’d think this was a waste of money, but … for the long haul down the road it’ll probably pay off.”

The city expects to start seeing the bridge’s rewards in October, when the first of the two is planned to open. The original plan called for three signature bridges across the Trinity River. City planners will begin working toward that third bridge if and when the I-30 Margaret McDermott Bridge is finished.

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