The Dallas Morning News is Just Shocked the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Cost So Much

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The Dallas Morning News has a big shocker headline -- a World-War-II-typeface, breathless, this-just-in, oh-my-God headline -- on the front of today's newspaper: "True Cost of Dallas' Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge: $182 million." The News tells us: "The new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will cost far more than the $117 million price tag repeatedly touted by city and state officials over the past several years." Ironically, it appears in newsstands behind a flier touting Sunday's Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge "tribute section."

Sorry. Can't bite my tongue on this. Look. This is a story the Observer first reported to you in 1999. That would be ... what? ... counting on my fingers here ... about 13 years ago?

Then we reported it again in 2000. Then in 2001. Again in 2002. Once more with feeling in 2003.

Again in 2004 (that was a favorite of mine, also reporting that the socialites pushing the Calatrava bridge concept had skipped on an $80,000 bill they owed the city for a promotional party they threw using city facilities and manpower. Skipped. Never paid it.).

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Once more in 2004. Then we really got busy. Between 2005 and 2011, we reported this story another 14 times.

Some of these were detailed reports, explaining why the costs were soaring and what the money was being spent on. Some of them were kind of drive-by, expressing exasperation over the fact that the city kept low-balling the cost of the bridge for the public and The Dallas Morning News kept refusing to do the math at all.

So today they do the math. Finally. You will have to forgive me if I sort of read The News in code, looking between the lines for meaning the way citizens of the old Soviet regime read their national newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia. Habit.

I take it that the state highway department must have put together some kind of final tally for the Hunt Hill Bridge, and they must have told somebody at The News they were going to have to make it public. They sure didn't want to give the story to us.

So they filtered it through their own newspaper, The Dallas Morning Pravda. And after 13 years of refusing to cover the story, we get a shocked-shocked gambling at Rick's Cafe story on Page One.

In the days ahead, The News will run one of their pretty-little-head editorials, I promise you, telling you not to worry, that this is all state money or federal money or money from Heaven, some crap like that.

There is no money from heaven. All they hand out up there is mercy. Try paying for a bridge with that.

Even when it is state and federal money, it all comes out of our share of total state or federal dollars -- the money available to Dallas. If we weren't throwing it down this particular toilet, we could spend it on things we need.

And please don't get taken in by that lie about private donations covering the overrun. We first reported here 13 years ago that the cost for a non-Calatrava regular old state freeway bridge would have been in the low 30 millions, as opposed to the $187 million the Calatrava version is costing us. That fact is confirmed in today's Morning News story.

That's a premium of $150 to $160 million for the Calatrava version. The private donations are about $12 million -- less than 10 percent of the cost overrun.

Think about it this way. What is the city council's damn job? To lie to you? What is the job of the mayor of Dallas? What is the job of the city's only daily newspaper? Is it to treat you like a child and never tell you the truth?

This is simple. Those bastards are not supposed to con us to our faces. That's just exactly what they have done. And this story on the front page of The News, pretending to be shocked about the whole thing, is one more level of the con.


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74 comments
Frank Patrick Turrentine
Frank Patrick Turrentine

Dallas is a middle-aged hooker at a convention. Why do we want to be an "international city" in the first place? So we can be more crowded? So rents will go up and a handful of absentee landlords and real estate speculators will get richer while traffic gets worse and city services are neglected? DISD is closing schools, the city is closing pools and libraries and we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on prestige projects leveraged on the idea that growth equals progress, and everyone is hyperventilating about how people elsewhere will finally take us seriously. For what? $$$.

Sure, the skyline looks pretty. Hell, the bridge looks pretty. But my rent will increase, and my company will have to move in a couple of years so our landlord can put another restaurant or bar in our building and generate more traffic in my neighborhood - which soon no longer be a neighborhood. The argument will be thrown back that west Dallas and Oak Cliff were cesspits otherwise, but I don't buy it. They got that way partly because the city wasn't interested in them until it was profitable for a select few and we became a target of the tourist trade. If rich folks don't already live there, you better be willing to prostitute whatever character your neighborhood has until it becomes a caricature of itself and no longer really exists.

How big do we want to get? How much more crowded and expensive do we want to be before we think we're cool enough, and why do we care if lots of people want to move here or not? There are better ways to make a living, and there's nothing wrong with improving what you've got without bulldozing everything and throwing up some flashy, expensive baubles to feel good about.

Sward
Sward

I am new to Dallas.  What is the purpose of the bridge?  My first impressions was to relieve the snarl of traffic trying to get from I35 to I30.  But, it appears that you cross the bridge and end up on surface streets, not a connector to I30.  

Cliffbehr
Cliffbehr

The MHH is a cable-stayed bridge, and the cables actually do hold the roadway up. Those claiming it is fake are ignorant of the facts, and most likely have an oak cliff bias and don't want to see anything positive happen for anyone south of the trinity. The temporary supports under the bridge were removed in 2011...if you saw it before that and based your fake suspension meme on that, well you're willfully ignorant. This is a much needed extension of woodall rodgers across the trinity, and will hugely benefit booming north oak cliff/bishop arts as well as west dallas. My only complaint is that it should have been extended to Fort Worth Avenue, but obviously more property acquisitions would have just added to the price tag. Sadly it will have a stoplight at Beckley..but more importantly it is an amazing addition to the skyline, especially lit at night. Dallas needs big civic projects like this to make this a world class city, which in turn will attract more businesses and corporate headquarters to the area, and more jobs. Moan all you want about the cost, it is an investment in the future of the city. Most monumental works like this are seldom appreciated by the current locals, but are cherished by subsequent generations (think Eiffel Tower).

Larry
Larry

DMN, always first with the obvious.

patricia
patricia

government officials have been lying to us for years.  all the really big lies have started since the creation of the "TWO FACED" currency.  as soon as they came out with that money, i knew they were preparing to f--k us and not let us feel it.  today,  we are living in a corrupt society.  even the hospitals and some doctors are double and triple charging for services and charging exorbitant prices for lab work(8000 dollars for blood work...REALLY?)  so it is no wonder, to me at least, to know that corruption by the people we vote in to look for our best interest end up going with the flow rather than sacrifice to expose the truth and make a change.  in order to form a more perfect society, we must care a little about ourselves and more for others.  hence the ACTION "i love you more".  i have always loved the observer.  you have always been true to reporting.  and i love you all more too.  thank you for your revealing reports

chevytexas
chevytexas

I'm not shocked, I'm hopeful... I want 182M for my property at its western end. Poor Large Marge.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Ummm, can someone do a report on the state of the I30 bridge over the trinity. We built a pretty bridge next to a functioning bridge with little traffic compared to 30, yet the 100000k cars that cross the 30 bridge have to drive over a 6-8" gap in the expansion joint halfway across the bridge, it rattles the shit out of my car at 10 mph or 60 mph.  I think the bridge might collapse sooner than later.  When was the last inspection and TxDot report on this bridge

joewest666
joewest666

Each time I read one of these vignettes I think how blessed I am to be living outside Dallas  County

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

And to think that they want two more.    This was so obvious except if you were a council member and attended endless feel good meetings where you conned yourselves into believing the crap that you were selling to the public.    Can you say ‘CLAW BACK”?   That is what we should do to those in office who supported this “brain dead” idea.    A friend of mine (who use to live here) from Seattle asked “suspension bridge???? Where is the water?”  Only when if floods and for that there is a toll road.     No accountability from those in office in the county or the city of Dallas.   Wonder too about all the “Federal Ear Marks” that went into this from our “Tal-i-ban Repub-li-can” officials in Washington!   Note-I do not want to neglect Rep Johnson either.

Paul
Paul

JimS, don't you know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different outcome?

As you said, "I'm  shocked; I'm shocked to find out that there is corruption and misspending going on here!"

I wonder who the MWBE contractors were on the job and who the "go to guy" was?

back2back
back2back

I have to sit here in Fort Worth and laugh. Mr. Schutze, I said the same as you when I hear about the bridge around 2000. I explained to my Dallas friends that it would be just like the the AA Center, where the Dallas citizens would pay more than double what the lying Kirk told the public. It's about greed and money changing hands. Dallas seems to have a very large number of idiots that do not care. By the way, you can park in downtown FW after dark and weekends for free on the street and any city or Bass owned lot.

facepalmattack
facepalmattack

Dallas' new motto should be...."Fake it 'til you make it!"...it's kind of got a nice ring to it, don't it?

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

Ahhh Jim, they'll never let you back in the Dallas Country Club, and now your ol' lady will no longer be welcomed by the Bridge Club. She'll have to take up spades cuz of you.

Jared Heath
Jared Heath

They haven't budgeted for the extra law enforcement that will be required on the west side for the foreseeable future to keep all the tourists dumb enough to go across it safe either...

Jay
Jay

Damn. If we had just demanded a standard bridge, we could have built one and a half additional DECK PARKS over Woodall Rogers Freeway, and then sold the park naming rights to some other billionaire to name after his 11 year old kid.

GoDallas
GoDallas

well lets see if development materalizes on the other side of the river... if so it won't be hard to do a quick ROI with tax value increases... cause right now it is the lowest value land in the city.   So it has no where to go but up.

Restaurantqualityblender
Restaurantqualityblender

Who cares? The DMN didn't set the budget for the bridge. They reported the data they were given. And in the end they got it wrong. Wow. The Observer got it right several years ago. Congratulations.  But instead of running a story about how you reported the real budget long ago, you use the moment to ridicule your "competitor" (which they aren't, and neither are you a competitor of theirs--they could give a rat's ass about you, oh, and they'll hire away the only real journalist your corporation have... yeah, corporation...you underground, counterculture agents provocateurs). Poor form and classless. Just what we've come to expect from you and this publication.  We'll just see what you have to say the next time this publication gets something wrong.

Lee
Lee

"the socialites pushing the Calatrava bridge concept had skipped on an $80,000 bill they owed the city for a promotional party they threw using city facilities and manpower. Skipped. Never paid it."

I believe that when you check, you will find that the $80,000 bill was from a contract that Carol Reed had with the City to use the top of a garage for a 4th of July event. The reasonable question of why it was $80,000 to use the top of a garage aside, I cannot believe that major politicians have contracted with Carol Reed to consult on City campaigns AND have allowed Carol Reed to contract for a number of events in Fair Park.

Parisrec
Parisrec

P.S.     It's A BRAND NEW DAY down there dont'cha know???

Parisrec
Parisrec

Belo Gardens people!!!!!!!!

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

Well, let's see.......$500 million for a Convention Center Hotel ('wonder when they'll report the cost overrun on that one?)........$180 Million for the Calatrava Bridge to nowhere.........$12 Million for the "Signature" Horse Park in South Dallas.............$20 Million for South Dallas Economic Development...........it all seems to be very consistent and logical. The South Dallas "colleagues" on City Council should be outraged, but they won't be......they'll take the crumbs that are offered. 

Guest
Guest

",,,it all comes out of our share of total state or federal dollars -- the money available to Dallas"  Do you mean city of Dallas or the silly "North Texas" moniker?

Personally I am tired of building roads to Collin County.

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

Well, it's paywalled, natch.

Although, I think the correct answer is "staff did not inform me".

Jeffrey Weiss
Jeffrey Weiss

Sigh. I *hate* to kill a good conspiracy story. But here goes: In advance of the official opening of the MHH bridge, I was tasked with what I thought was a simple sidebar story. Get a final firm accounting for what it cost and who paid for it. Basically an extended text graphic. I will not bore you with how that turned out not to be simple. Repeated back and forths with the government agencies that, you would think, would have had these numbers at their fingertips at this point. Let me assure you it was not the case that somebody was about to release those figures and slipped them to me. Once we finally got the numbers, we published the story. Period.

 And as for your difference between the Calatrava with a vanilla bridge, you are using the wrong numbers. As we put in the story today, about $100 mil of the total $182 mil was for the right of way and construction of the *connectors* -- the ramps and etc. that presumably would have been needed for whatever was strung over the Trinity. The difference you need to be looking at is between the $75 mil or so for the design and construction of the MHH bridge itself (which does not include several mil for inspections that, presumably would be needed for any bridge) and the cost of a vanilla bridge, which TxDOT says would have run about $25 mil. Which ain't couch change. But is a lot smaller than you're claiming.

Of the other criticisms you want to level, this deponent saith not.

I'smomma'sspeciallil'helper
I'smomma'sspeciallil'helper

Dallas will never be like Paris...this is a town of corporate suit and tie guys(and gals)...stay away from the dope...it'll induce visions of grandeur, if you're not careful.

Thewriteactor
Thewriteactor

Thank you sir for this comment - THAT is the bridge that needs to be replaced.  I can promise you that I will drive a couple blocks out of my way to go across the MHH just as soon as it's open.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

you reminded your seattle buddy that its not a suspension bridge right, just a pretty fake look a like?

heart and soul
heart and soul

Ft. Worth after dark or on weekends? Maybe you should pay people to park there so it looks like something is happening. Just a thought.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Since when did we start getting tourists?

cp
cp

That is the most idiotic comment I have ever read. Do you even READ the news at all?

joewest666
joewest666

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Just like your shitty post.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

So what you're saying is that ol' Jim at the free weekly rag must be a better researcher than anyone at the Dallas Morning News, with all their journalism awards, since he found the info you think the DMN was completely unable to find or even ask for, for 13 years -- even after he made it public, and they could have read it here any of the many times it was brought up. They just took the data someone fed them and didn't check it at all?

Sorry, don't buy it. (Not the part about how they couldn't even see it in front of their faces after he made it public, anyway.)

edit: I see from Jeffrey Weiss' comment below that things are more complicated than that. Like a good armchair (couchtop, to be honest) reporter, I'll bow to the new information.

cp
cp

No, the DMN did NOT report the data they had. Does anyone think for one second that the DMN what just clueless about the costs- as Jeffery Weiss has suggested above- until just now? If that's the case, then no wonder the DMN is like a dying dinosaur thrashing about in a tar pit!

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

The south Dallas collegues will probalby be fishing off the bridge.

RTGolden
RTGolden

So..... you'd like to build a bunch of roads to nowhere to go along with the bridge to nowhere?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Yeah, damn hell crap on that Tollway built over 20 years ago! Or that Central project that ended 10 years ago! Or that 35 project that hasn't even begun and never touches Collin County! Or that 121 project that only got built because of tolls!

What else ya got?

Guest
Guest

Bypass the paywall.  Google the article title and click through.

LL
LL

So even if it is only $50M -- DUH -- that's $50 M that could have been spent to a much better end. 

And often it's not the actual cost but the lost opportunity cost -- what you could have done with that money.  And as others have pointed out -- this is another bridge to nowhere over a sewer for which there is no actual traffic need.  So even if it is only $50M -- that could have bought a lot of real traffic improvements.

Just as there is no actual traffic need/improvement with the road inside the levee until at least 25 years from now. 

And even if it is "federal and state" money -- Need I remind you -- that it all comes from us.

Scarlet Dallas
Scarlet Dallas

All of this is based upon the false assumption that there would even be a new bridge at that location but for the insane desire to place this fake suspension bridge there. Remember - this bridge is not about any demonstrable transportation need at all. There isn't any traffic need to get to the pick-n-pulls and the Superfund site between Downtown and the lovely Singleton corridor. This is solely about municipal DNA engineering. Build the monument to stupidity and apparently stupid people will install cooking academies, chocolatiers, speciality retail, etc. It is a transportation project for a completely non-transportation purpose. No, a vanilla bridge wouldn't do - not at all. After all, it's not like any cars were using the old one.

JimS
JimS

I accept your explanation of genesis of story, and thanks for giving it. The initial $35-$40 million cost that Hale's predecessor  was talking to me about in 1999 was turn-key, land and construction, everything. I forget why, but the Calatrava design does something to the approaches that requires more land, as I remember. Anyway, thank you for your comment.

Jeffrey Weiss
Jeffrey Weiss

 Oh, and I was totally remiss in not making it clear that once I discovered my task was not so simple, that only Michael Lindenberger's help made it possible to land this particular fish. You may now resume your regularly scheduled Grassy Knoll.

cliffhanger
cliffhanger

There's already a bridge. I used to drive on it every freakin' day to get to work until they blocked it off to build the stupid fake suspension bridge.

The real cost is the difference between building a new bridge for no reason, and repairing the perfectly good, already there bridge that runs directly parallel to the stupid fake suspension bridge.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I'll bring that up when she stops laughiing at Dallas.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

 Apparently you have not been to downtown Ft Worth in the past 25 years.

JimS
JimS

Mark Zero: Where to begin? In 2007, when there was a referendum on the toll road part of this, the Morning News was insisting that the toll road was fully funded through the North Texas Tollway Authority. They did a biographical profile of me, the point of which was that I was a paranoid nutcase for saying crazy shit like the toll road was not fully funded thorugh the tollway authority.

A month or so before the election, the head of the tollway authority told Michael Lindenberger, the News' transportation writer, that the tollroad was not fully funded through them and was not going to be and that it was going to be up to Dallas taxpayers to pick up the cost overrun.The Morning News sat on that story until the day after the election. And that;s only one example of how they have handled this and other stories.

Here's what it is: our being "free," as you say, has nothing to do with the quality of what we do. It's a business model. Channel 8 News, when you watch it, is "free." The last I heard, our part of the industry was much more profitable than the paid circulation part. They're going out of business. We're in business.

And yes, our journlaism is of a higher quality than theirs. We tell the truth. They don't. I wonder what other metric you migth have for it?

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Maybe spending public money helps that sort of person forget how fat they are and how old they're getting.

JimS
JimS

Apologies, Mr. Zero. I thought it was getting awfully chilly around here. Must have been my skin getting thinner.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Jim, give my comment a second read, please. I wasn't attacking you or your paper. I was pointing out how silly it was for Restaurantqualityblender to defend DMN by saying they simply printed what they'd been fed. To use that as an excuse brings up the question of their journalistic ability. Presumably they have (or used to have) a staff to fact check and do the sorts of things that led to the awards they've earned, and that takes money, etc., supported by their subscriber base. It's naive at best to believe they couldn't have known about this material if you, the guy on the presumably shoestring budget, had access to it -- especially, as I said, once you made it public.

Sorry if I was unclear. I'd buy you a Big Red to smooth things over, but it looks like it'd have to be this week.

RTGolden
RTGolden

UH, JimS..... re-read markzero's comment, he was defending you and the Observer, I believe.  Your righteous, yet somewhat addled (aint age a bitch?) angst should be directed at the comment above markzero's, by the kitchen appliance guy.

JimS
JimS

... other than spelling.

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