This afternoon in Fort Worth, a "parade of dignitaries" will mark the opening of the new West 7th Street, and good for them. It's a fully competent work of civil engineering and a pleasant enough way to get to downtown Fort Worth, if get to downtown Fort Worth you must.
It's just that the level of excitement -- and remember that we say this as a friend and neighbor -- has grown unseemly. People are dropping adjectives like "signature" and "one-of-a-kind" as if no one's ever built a bridge before.
We urge the people of Fort Worth put down their celebratory bottles of Andre, pause for a moment, and cast their gaze eastward. There on the horizon, if their eyes can penetrate 35 miles through the smog, they'll notice a majestic -- nay, heavenly -- glow. Closer inspection will reveal the source as a span that truly deserves superlatives, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
Let's compare. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge stretches 1,870 feet. West Seventh Street's is a paltry 981. The Fort Worth bridge crosses a stretch of Trinity River in which people routinely go tubing. Dallas' portion is much too pristine to be befouled by human bodies.
The same goes for the bridge itself. Whereas the broad sidewalks on 7th Street are designed to appeal to pedestrians, the planners of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge were forward-thinking enough to make walking, an out-of-date technology, impossible.
There's more. Who designed the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge? World-class architect Santiago Calatrava, who's so famous he no longer has to spend time on such petty concerns as not screwing over clients. As for the mastermind behind Fort Worth's, we have no idea. The city farmed the work out to some anonymous TxDOT engineer.
The result? The West Seventh Street Bridge cost a laughable $25.9 million. The price tag in Dallas was an awe-inspiring $182 million, a figure made even more impressive by the fact that it was more than 50 percent over budget.
So, you see, there's really no comparison. We have no idea how hard it must be to live in the perennial shadow of a larger, vastly more sophisticated neighbor. What we do know is that, rather than embarrass themselves by giddily parading down their new, mediocre bridge, they should slink back into their vibrant downtown and human-scale developments and bikeable neighborhoods and think long and hard about what truly makes a great city.
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