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Calatrava Bridge: Just a Cheap, Pretty Bauble Hiding an Old, Ugly Scheme to Steal Our Park

Calatrava Bridge: Just a Cheap, Pretty Bauble Hiding an Old, Ugly Scheme to Steal Our Park

In all of the hoopla over the impending opening of the new Calatrava bridge over the Trinity River, please remember what that bridge really stands for and why it's there. It stands for the ruination of what could have been the world's greatest urban park.

Remember that in the run-up to the 2007 referendum on putting an expressway out there in the middle of the park, some of the private donors to the bridge project threatened to demand their money back if voters rejected the in-the-park alignment for the road.

That's what this is all about. The toll road. Never forget that.

Photo by Unfair Park Editor, taken last night while thinking how much Schutze would like it
Photo by Unfair Park Editor, taken last night while thinking how much Schutze would like it

The toll road hasn't been built yet, but it could be, and the threat it poses to the park is still very much with us. And please remember why Dallas voters approved the in-the-park alignment in 2007 -- because then Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert told the voters bold lies about the safety, financing and functionality of the road.

If we had had a mayor who told us the truth at the time, that thing would have gone down in flames.

The Calatrava bridge has always been a bread-and-circuses trick to keep the public from focusing on what the road advocates want to do to their park: kill it.

In 1998, when voters approved the Trinity River project, it was described to them as the biggest urban park in the world, a wonderful green space that would connect the far ends of a divided city. Only after the votes had been counted did City Hall reveal the true nature of what voters had been sold.

Far from a park project, it was a highway-building project to facilitate redevelopment of the aging Stemmons industrial corridor as a suburban gated community on steroids, a high-rise version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with its own private ingress and egress, a big fat roaring toll road that would also serve as a big fat barrier to protect the new district from the masses living nearby.

That's the biggest joke of all -- that the real estate development behind the road project is the hopelessly obsolete Eisenhower-era pipe dream of people who no longer have even an inkling of what modern downtowns are all about, how they work and who wants to live in them or why.

In the process, if it is ever built the toll road will savage the park idea, walling off downtown from the park, rendering the entire middle section of the park utterly inhospitable and wrecking forever the idea of an endless band of grass and forest to bind the city together.

While cities the world over are spending billions to tear down exactly this kind of jailhouse wall and liberate their green spaces from concrete and car exhaust, the people behind the toll road idea want to take Dallas by the scruff of the neck and drag it back to the 1950s.

That's what that bridge represents. The Calatrava bridge is a sucker's game, the string of pearls an errant husband brings home when he fears he's about to get caught misbehaving. Architecturally it's an obscenity, a suspension bridge where there is nothing over which to suspend, a bauble, a cheaped-down version of the original design, Calatrava's own knock-off of himself, a larger version of that white-water thing the same people built in the river and then had to close immediately because it was so poorly executed.

The Calatrava bridge represents everything wrong and cheesy that people want to do to our river -- people with bad taste and a stubbornly anachronistic worldview.

I'm not saying don't go listen to the bands. Listen to the bands. The stuff on the other side of the bridge on opening night, in West Dallas, will be cool. Those are other people doing that.

I'm just asking you not to forget what the bridge itself represents. It's the fancy silver cap on a crystal vial. Of strychnine.


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