Why Did Council Just Approve $10.7 Million For New McDermott Bridge? Because "No One Remembers the Little Things We Do."

McDermott_bridge_tinymodel_Merten.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
We're not sure what the Margaret McDermott Bridge will look like, but this version's already been scrapped.
The city council by a 13-1 vote this morning approved a $10.7 million contract with architect Santiago Calatrava to design pedestrian and bicycle components for the proposed Margaret McDermott Bridge, but not without strong opposition from council member Angela Hunt.

Through a series of questions aimed at Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan, Hunt uncovered the current cost estimate for the bridge of $314 million, which had previously been approximately $500 million. The city's Congressional delegation has secured $92 million for the signature element of the bridge, Jordan told the council -- though the Texas Department of Transportation begs to differ. Jordan also said TxDOT is scrambling to find the remainder of the funds.

"It seems to me that we are extravagantly wasting money on a project that may never happen," Hunt said, referring to the signature aspect of what will replace the IH-30 bridge, which has outlived its use.

Hunt suggested removing the signature features and instead building a "plain vanilla" bridge, thereby lowering the cost to $222 million, and then applying the $92 million toward that amount, reducing TxDOT's funding commitment to around $130 million. TxDOT officials have expressed a similar sentiment, suggesting the $92 million cannot be allocated to nonessential costs.

"It violates what we've all been working toward," Jordan responded, pointing out the city's desire to build a second signature bridge next to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which is expected to be completed in October.

"We have one Calatrava bridge, and it seems like one would be enough," Hunt said.

Jordan said the signature element is best for the city long term because it will make the bridge "more memorable" and attract economic development.

"I take issue with it promoting economic development," Hunt said.

After several other council members voiced support of the contract and claimed no city funds were at stake, Hunt reminded them that only $7.2 million of the contract is private funding. The remaining $3.5 million will be paid from 2006 bond funds. Jordan said the Regional Transportation Council is expected to repay that money, but Hunt stressed there's no guarantee that the RTC will follow through.

Dave Neumann, chair of the council's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee, praised the contract as "good news" and a "defining moment" for the city.

"Clearly we need to step forward and say, 'We need more than a standard TxDOT bridge,'" he said, echoing Jordan's comments about attracting economic development.

Vonciel Jones Hill, one of Hunt's allies on the council, said she "vehemently" disagrees with Hunt's concerns. She stressed the city's longstanding commitment to ensure the bridge has signature elements and said such a bridge is important to the city's "long-term health and development."

"This is Dallas," she said. "This is how we do things. We do it in a big way."

Steve Salazar agreed. "No one remembers the little things we do," he said.

Mayoral candidate and RTC chair Ron Natinsky said using the $92 million to bridge TxDOT's funding gap "disturbs" him and "is not a fair deal."

"We need to hold the line on this," he said.

Linda Koop, chair of the council's Transportation and Environment Committee, also scoffed at helping out TxDOT, which is charged with designing the bridge's non-pedestrian components. "It's Dallas's time for funding for transportation," she said.

Mayor Dwaine Caraway compared the bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and "the Golden Arch" in St. Louis.

"You and I don't always agree," Caraway said to Hill.

"Rarely," she said.

"But you're on target with your comments," he said.

And, with that, a record vote was called for, and Hunt was the only one in opposition.

"I'm deeply worried about this," Hunt said. "I think it sends the wrong message."

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95 comments
Cedars75215
Cedars75215

Well, the really awesome thing about this bridge is that it connects the glorious neighborhoods of Lew Sterrett Heights and Liquorstore Place to West Dallas, where everyone goes for... wait, what?

Can Angela Hunt just BE the City Council, on her own? In response to another commentor's remarks...I live in South Dallas precisely BECAUSE it's not Uptown. The last thing I need is hyper-congested neighborhoods full of $30k millionaire yuppie douchebags, sipping Starbucks while the valet parks the Beemer and they have an authentic Mehican lunch at Urban Taco Diner.

I am actually stunned about Vonciel Jones Hill's rationale that we need this just because this be how we do it in Dalllassssssssssssssss! Ka-ching, suckas!

I will admit the bridge looks neat, and I notice all the time that I can see it from all around the city, which again, is 'neat.' But we don't need a half billion dollar 'Neat' Bridge, which is what this is. I love this city so much, but is there anyone here who doesn't think this is polishing a turd? Since when do rancid creeks need elaborate Italian landmark bridges to connect ghetto A to ghetto B? You know what I remember, Salazar (it won't be you, except for your propensity to make inane comments like that, by the way)? It will be when I can drive down any inner-loop street in this sprawling beast of a city without playing Grand Theft Auto to avoid the Grand Canyon sized potholes on the way to wade through the weeds at the park after discovering that the library is closed on a Monday afternoon. But hey, what could half a $bil do to fix those?

Holy Sheets
Holy Sheets

at least you can go up in the arch or walk across the golden gate bridge.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

Once again, Dallas can't help but shit all over "Less is more"

shrubstex
shrubstex

As a Dallasite for many years, I must always remember that our city has always been a commercial venture. Through the years we have been able to copy most of the successful real estate development plans of other cities to our purposes with varying degrees of success. The West Village is a good example. In other urban areas, small multi use districts, have been built with easy access to urban professionals and affluent neighborhoods, so lets find the best spot in Dallas, hire the Famous Firm that designs replicas of Historic Buildings (lots of red brick and enhanced stucco) and build one. Viola!!! A success!

But what happens here is that we continue to try to replicate the success of the first with another that usually fails. Remember European Crossroads? My favorite description of Dallas has always been- Unrestrained by Subtlety.

Also consider the curse of the matching structures that have never been built all over downtown, Fountain Place 2, Main Place 2, City Place 2, ad infinitum. The second bridge will not be built.

Talltexan19
Talltexan19

Hunt is always worried or in a stir about something...especially now that she's running for Mayor.

Salazargotpaidtoday
Salazargotpaidtoday

angela hunt needs to quit running for mayor - run and we will strike you down!

choraleboy
choraleboy

"the Golden Arch" in St Louis? WTF? It's so memorable the Mayor thinks it's a McDonalds!

Meredith
Meredith

Business as usual in the city of Dallas...FOLLOW THE MONEY...It is not going to benefit any taxpayer I know..the only ones who benefit are those politicians who get all expense paid trips to Spain and have brothers who are paid consultants..give me a break!! Dallas wake up and get pissed that people are stealing YOUR MONEY...IF YOU DON'T Like SOMETHING CHANGE IT...everyone needs to get out there and vote.

Mark Brown
Mark Brown

Now if she would just stop raising our property taxes, Hunt might turn out to be an ok councilwoman. But everyone else really needs to be retired. When you see a city council incumbent on the ballot, vote for an opponent.

For the record...
For the record...

Dallas council members apparently seek a Dallas identity, confirmed by the signatures. "Dallas" is dead and wrong anyway. But Dallas the city has no identification with the river, as New Orleans does. Transportation, yes, and I guess we're stuck with the first one. But celebrating the Trinity by fancifying a bridge - that's lipsticking the pig.

Gomer Pyle
Gomer Pyle

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.......can anyone tell me what economic development has occurred in regards to a "bridge signature element".........Certainly, there are memorable bridges - Golden Gate, Brooklyn Bridge, Royal Gorge Bridge, to name a few.........but how many companies relocated to an area because of a bridge? Can anyone quantify that? I don't think so. While I don't always agree with my councilmember - Hunt - i do think she has it right. We spend $92.0m because we are DALLAS........are you kidding me - that is our justification for spending those kind of dollars? Don't get me wrong, I think signature elements are important - Arts District, Uptown, CC Hotel, Trinity River Development, etc. but how are two signature bridges going to drive more economic development than one? Can anyone explain that to me? Not that I deserve an answer......I am just a lowly voter and one vote at that.....guess it reminds me - we are the government - we are here to help you.............but what if I don't need the help........doesn't matter - you get it anyway.......in the pocketbook.....

Who Ray
Who Ray

Economic Development????? I have a bridge I'd like to sell to you. Maybe some swampland in Florida?

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

We could always sell a portion of our own "Golden Arch" to McDonald's...they could hang advertising and crap on it...maybe even paint it yellow for Dwaine...then Dallas can use the revenue for more signature elements on other bridges.

I mean...all our sports stadiums have to be sponsored and some big corporate logo splashed on the side. Why not rename our bridge The Dr. Pepper Bridge or the AT & T Signature Bridge...or hell The Smirnoff Arch?

James
James

Thank God that people on this board are not running this City! I'm so much happier being on the other side from you guys!

Catbird
Catbird

Has anyone really looked at the thing lately?

Compared to Saarien's the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Dallas Calatrava is graceless and thick, sort of like a branchless tree trunk rooted heavily in the middle of the muddy Trinity floodplain.

Frankly, someone should have the courage to let the man go and engane someone with talent who cares about Dallas.

Gabe
Gabe

Without cheating (i.e. google), how many famous bridges can you actually name? Here's mine: Golden Gate Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Bridge over Troubled Water, Bridges of Madison County, Jeff Bridges and his dad Lloyd Bridges...I'm out.

MIke'sPrestonTrailsCaddy
MIke'sPrestonTrailsCaddy

Mighty Mike told me after his round today to vote for the fancy bridge so his billionaire friends in Preston Hollow can make more millions from their vast holdings in West Dallas -

Nunya
Nunya

All of these fools need to be replaced. Except Angela, of course. Please remember this vote while in the booths this year.

warden62
warden62

I would remember the little things if they ever did any of them... like, oh, say, fix some potholes every once in a while.

Barryguitar
Barryguitar

When the state and feds decide to hold back these funds that the city council is betting on, we the local taxpayers are the one who will be screwed. But who cares? Does anyone care?The truth is that only 6% of the people will vote in this upcoming city election. All you ass hats that have so much to say but dont vote, are the reason why these people get to waste all this money on their little projects to enrich their friends. Please, Please, Please, get off your lazy asses and go VOTE!!!! It is now more important that ever that we remove these people from their positions. Get The Council OFF the Council...Now!!

Rob Kuelbs
Rob Kuelbs

Of course, Dallas is the home of the $30,000 millionaire. Nothing says douche like having stacks of bills piling up that you can't pay, and buying a new BMW (or fake suspension bridge) on credit to impress the ladies.

Rob Kuelbs
Rob Kuelbs

WFAA quoted Dave Neuman, city council member, as saying "An improved, signature style Margaret McDermott Bridge will bring economic development."

So when someone chooses a city to move their business to, these are their priorities?

I imagine most large corporations keep a list like this when looking to open a new location:

1) City has a large signature bridge. City with 2 signature bridges would be even better.2) City has a large debt to income ratio. This shows that council isn't afraid to spend money.3) City has a mayor with "friends" who like to argue over Cowboys football. Shows he's friendly and follows local sports.4) City has large big-ticket parks that are rarely used. (Look good on postcards with the bridges).5) Streets well maintained.6) Libraries (don't have to be open more than 2 days per week, wikipedia is available 24/7)7) Schools (education is highly overrated in today's economy)8) Tax rates and economic incentives for our business.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

Someone needs to dig around and find out who is really going to benefit financially from this and exactly how. Cuz this just don't smell right.

Russp
Russp

Yet these are the morons the voters of Dallas keep voting in! Wake up folks.

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

So when they build this signature bridge is the other one going to be in print?

SteveT
SteveT

Unbelievable; this is one of those moments that makes me wonder how humans ever got to the top of the food chain. It definitely worries me about our chances of staying there.

zobzerto
zobzerto

"This is Dallas," she said. "This is how we do things. We do it in a big way."

Seriously? That's your rationale for doing this? Because it's big, and we like big, cost and practicality be damned?

Sheeyit, Angela Hunt is the only one of these people with any sense.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Two signatures always raises a question of trust between one of two of the people who write the check could the same be said for city with two signature bridges ?

heart and soul
heart and soul

Geez, you make one mistake and then you make another. Earth to Dallas. The first bridge is not cool, it is ugly, pricey and stupid looking. It may be signature Dallas. LOL but is not worth the money fools. LOL

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Whaaaa??? When did she place her hat back into the ring? I coulda swore she swiped it back out.

Talltexan19
Talltexan19

Well, I'm sure he was thinking of the right shape anyway....

Talltexan19
Talltexan19

It's kind of our fault, though, isn't it? Voters approved the TRP in 2006(?). We didn't have the money then; We definitely don't have it now. It's all smoke, mirrors and speculation about one agency or another giving us the "money." When really, none of us know how its gonna be paid for. Where the hell did we think the money was gonna come from?? Thank God I don't own a home right now!

Guest
Guest

Because you'd rather have a pretty bridge than basic city services?

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

I think it looks like an old fashioned bobby pin.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

The Oresund bridge-tunnel springs to mind, as do the Humber Bridge and the Tay bridge.

All of which are engineering marvels, but built to address a need first.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Robin Trower respectfully submits Bridge Of Sighs

Talltexan19
Talltexan19

Yeah but how do we know that the people who replace them arent just feeding up the chain for their own power? Look at our President. Look at how many wars we're fighting over "terrorism," aka oil for wealthy, pride-ridden Americans. It's just a crappy cycle that can't be stopped unfortunately. Whether you vote or you don't vote, politicians are gonna do what's best for themselves overall.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

As a longtime 19 year Chicagoan back in dallas(notice the lack of a capital D), I applaud you.

Billy MacLeod
Billy MacLeod

Follow the money to the concrete and steel contracts Tad. They are all getting paid.

Russp
Russp

Obviously whoever gets to build it will benefit the most so now you need to find out who has been a consultant for or is friends with one of the city's contractor on these bridge projects. I seem to remember some city official who was in construction...

Talltexan19
Talltexan19

Obviously enough people didn't vote for more people like Ms. Hunt in the elections.

Stacy
Stacy

the property south of the levees facing that bridge have already been bought up ready to be turned into luxury high rises. When that bridge was lite for super bowl it was amazing site...I'm sure the people who's apartments are facing the bridge and the people riding paddle boats in the park would think different from you..I don't care how much it cost.... if it can turn a delapitated part of Dallas into another uptown then do it!!!! So to counteract your comment I'd say the developers, park guest, and condo dwellers who's balcony's face the bridges will think that the money was worth it....everything that is a landmark in the world was at one point called a waste of money........landmarks cost money....

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Oh don't worry, she's not. That's just Mary Suhm using an alias with those comments.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

The project was approved by voters in 1998.

anon
anon

Of course they do- the first thing architects are taught are the three F's...."Form Follows Function".

heart and soul
heart and soul

I say if developers and condo dwellers want their view blocked by a giant pcv pipe penis then let them pay for it. I think it is ugly and I liked the view better before.

It sounded good... "Spanish designer bridge" "Italian imported steel"... but now that it is there and I see it I wish I wasn't seeing it. It seems more gimmick than a landmark.I don't want another one.

Guest
Guest

I could actually see the first bridge expanding economic development some because it's a bridge in a place where no bridge previously existed. It's creating a new connection between one side of the river and the other.

Of course, I would be surprised if it's the arch that causes the economic development not just the bridge itself.

Gabe
Gabe

Stacy, your sharp irony and keen wit has really pierced to the heart of this matter. People really don't care to think past shiny, pretty to the true costs of things. And you're right, the idiots out there will say spending 100 million extra on a bridge so a thousand condos can have a better view (working out to $100,000 per condo) is a rare deal that can't be passed up. I thought only Daniel was capable of this level of master sarcasm, but no, you surpass even he.

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Yes, just like with Uptown we'll have to cart the poor minorities off to another section of the City(Hey! South Dallas, you guys got any more room? )...it'll take time but when doing the bidness of the Wealthy...time is nothing but another developer's deal away.

Stacy
Stacy

ok heres where I get frustrated..mainly because most people have no idea about the area that is located in the impact zone...What minorities are every one complaining about that will be carted off, because there is NOT A SINGLE RESIDENTIAL BUILDING in the area from I-30 to the Continental bridge and from the Levees to Sylvan Ave!?!? which is the main focus for the redevelopment...Uptown's creation did result in several minorities being relocated but unlike uptown this area HAS NO RESIDENTIAL....This area is mostly auto/glass cheap food/ check cashing marts and several delapitated businesses which were and are more than happy to sell to developers...I should know my parents had a piece of property located there. So if this bridge could turn a delapitated business park into a upscale residential and entertainment venue like uptown I say it's a good thing since the economic impact would be benifical to our city just like uptown.

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