Committee Approves Margaret McDermott Bridge Redesign That Pays Calatrava Eight Million Bucks But Costs the City Nada

Mary_Suhm2_TRCP_Merten.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
City Manager Mary Suhm answers questions at today's TRCP Committee meeting.
At the behest of City Manager Mary Suhm, the city council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee this morning unanimously approved a revised $8 million contract with architect Santiago Calatrava to redesign the Margaret McDermott Bridge.

"We believe it's a viable, favorable way to go," Suhm said.

Making a rare appearance at a committee briefing, Suhm said the redo expedites construction, reduces costs and adds pedestrian and bicycle elements, as we reported Saturday.

"Sooner and less money," Vonciel Jones Hill said. "I like that."

Suhm said the current funding sources and uses aren't finalized, but the project cost will drop "substantially." She stressed no city money is dedicated to the project, with the feds, state and private donations covering the cost.

"We cannot put city money in this redesign at all," she said, adding "the city must live within its means."

Calatrava is currently working on a new design that's expected to be completed in January, but Suhm said he refused to show her any preliminary drawings. While she doesn't know details about any potential changes, Suhm speculated it's unlikely all four steel arches will remain because of their high cost.

"We are asking him to do something he has not done before," she said, pointing out that this is the first time Calatrava's dealt with a pedestrian component, along with designing two bridges in such close proximity to each other.

Suhm also set out to clear up "erroneous" information about the bridge, including complaints that the money should be spent elsewhere, such as on street repairs. However, the $92 million from the feds can't be reallocated by the city, meaning all that dough would go to somewhere else.

"Frankly, I want the money to be spent right here in Dallas," she said.

Suhm briefly mentioned the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which is scheduled to open in October, claiming its construction has spurred development in West Dallas that no one would have expected 15 years ago.

The committee also approved a $5 million grant from the Trinity Trust Foundation. Both items are scheduled for a full council vote at next Wednesday's agenda meeting.

Chair Dave Neumann and other committee members praised Gail Thomas of the Trinity Trust and former council member Craig Holcomb of the Trinity Commons Foundation, with Neumann declaring today's vote "another big checkmark for our Trinity River project."

"We want these long-term signature pieces for our city," he said.

Prior to the meeting, Neumann walked by assistant city manager Jill Jordan and said, "Those levees still holding up? You bet they are!"

Not to be outdone, Trinity River project director Rebecca Rasor had the line of the day after committee member Steve Salazar threatened to "come back and haunt you" if the new Sylvan Avenue Bridge isn't completed in two years.

"You already did that once," she said, referring to his return to the council in 2003 after he lost his prior seat to Dr. Elba Garcia two years earlier.

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19 comments
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Ryan
Ryan

it's disingenuous to say that peole were calling for the $92 million for street repair only. Many were calling for the money to be used to lessen the state and regional cost of the bridge by making just a regular bridge. The money would still be spent in Dallas, there'd just be less state and regional taxpayer money in it.

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

Just about every big deal established signature status bridge in the US has dedicated bike/walk lane components. Golden Gate, Brooklyn Bridge, etc. What's so hard about making sure this is part of a NEW bridge design? Oh wait. This is Dallas. Walk? Downtown? Bike? Hike? Nature? HAHA. It's not like we aspire to be civilized. Or great.

Who Ray
Who Ray

This is the first time I have ever done this, so I'm only going to charge you $8 Million. If I knew what I was doing, I would probably charge you two or three times that amount.

It really doesn't matter WHERE the money is coming from. This is clearly another boondoggle.

dallasmay
dallasmay

Didn't Calatrava design a bridge in Venice? I seem to remember a lot of walking going on over there.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

[Suhm also set out to clear up "erroneous" information about the bridge, including complaints that the money should be spent elsewhere, such as on street repairs. However, the $92 million from the feds can't be reallocated by the city, meaning all that dough would go to somewhere else.

"Frankly, I want the money to be spent right here in Dallas," she said.]

Queen Suhm's implication is the somewhat preposterous notion that the federal government came to the City of Dallas and said, "hey, we've got $92 million for you--- but it HAS to be used for Calatrava bridge and nothing else!" Obviously, that's not the way things work and that isn't what's going on in this case.

Rather, the City of Dallas has a limited ability to obtain funds for a variety of programs from the federal government. Queen Suhm, operating in a environment where transparency was completely absent, determined that getting $92 million from the federal government for the Calatrava bridge should be prioritized over many of fhe City's other pressing transportation needs (that could be similarly addressed with federal dollars).

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Will we importing Italian construction crews to build this one too?

TrinityRiverVisionary
TrinityRiverVisionary

They need to include slips for my fleet of solar powered water taxis as we ferry the fake boob and cocaine crowd from the ghost bar to the La Bajada Spa and Country club

John_McKee
John_McKee

They did say the bridge was going to be good for businesses...

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

I'm shocked that the city is making the right decision for once, not only by requesting a cheaper redesign but by adding a pedestrian and bike component to a bridge that previously didn't have one. This means it'll be feasible to actually walk or bike from downtown to Oak Cliff via the Continental Bridge/Park, head south along the levee, cross back at I-30 and then north along the redesigned Riverfront Blvd. If they don't screw this up, it could be one amazing course!

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Calatrava has never had to deal with people walking before? And he needs 8 months to figure out how to deal with this conundrum? Let me see if I can give him some guidance: add a 10 foot wide span that goes across the river, don't let cars drive on it. Fucking done. Was that so hard? (Where's my eight million dollar redesign fee?)

scottindallas
scottindallas

Why ARE pedestrians being incorporated into this bridge at all? Makes me think of "lipstick on a pig" or "Potemkin Village."

Montemalone
Montemalone

I don't understand why they didn't want to recreate the WPA/Art Deco era style of the exisiting bridges. A big, solid, cast concrete with some detailing and period lighting would be cool.

rubbercow
rubbercow

It ain't big enough or flashy enough for the city that lives large and dreams big consarnit!

dallasmay
dallasmay

They are harder to see from space.

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

If the city has to sacrifice the "fancy" part of the bridge in order to have bike and ped access, that is a win for everyone. And who knows... maybe the new design could still have an arch or two.

Jason
Jason

I agree with you on the bike/pedestrian access part. And shows what I know, when they said they were doing away with the "fancy" design bridge, I just assumed they were doing away with Calatrava altogether and were just going to build a regular 6-8 lane bridge. But if he is redesigning the bridge we should be able to still have a nice looking bridge and help save the city $100 million. Nothing wrong with that.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Asking an architect to do something he has never done before and playing money games has never come back to haunt anyone. This just may replace the memory of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the history books.

3rd Wheel Marketing
3rd Wheel Marketing

These bridges aren't exactly architectural wonders like the Tacoma Narrows was at the time. Besides if it falls we can just wade out, pick it up and not get our ankles wet.

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