City Hall

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

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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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten