The Calatrava Isn't a Bridge; It's a Bridgehead for Developers

I am terribly embarrassed by the short film I offered here yesterday about driving over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge for the first time. The comments on my cinematography, direction, editing and narration have been scathing, scathing! Shockingly caustic. I just feel utterly scathed.

I get the message, people. It's back to film school for this cowboy. And actually, I never went to film school. And I'm not a cowboy. So you see the effect this has had.

I'm also in big trouble for showing the inside of my house while my wife was out of town and after I had emptied an entire storage room of useless crap into the entryway. But I will say this about that. She should have thought about that before she left me here alone with my demons. By which I mean her dogs.

Much more important, however, is this: There is a point to be made, in fact, about my adventures crossing the new Santiago Calatrava cable-stayed bridge, which joins the Woodall Rodgers Freeway on the north end of downtown to ... to ... to ...?

You see. It's just as I suspected from the beginning. I proved it to myself by driving over the new bridge only hours after it opened for the first time to vehicular traffic. It is, indeed, a bridge to ...


But, wait. Let's not get hoodwinked into the very ruse the bridge-builders intend. According to them, if I say the bridge is a bridge to nowhere, the bridge-builders will shout that I am calling West Dallas nowhere. And West Dallas is a place where a lot of working-class Hispanic people live. Hence, if I say the bridge is a bridge to nowhere, I am calling working class Hispanic people nobody. Hence I am a racist blockhead.

Puleeeeze. In the first place, there was already a bridge to this very point. It is called the Continental Bridge. It's still there. It crosses from West Dallas to Irving Boulevard and the Stemmons Expressway -- a good way to get to work.

Under the current plan, the Continental Bridge, which used to be a good way to get to work, will be converted to a linear park like the High Line in New York -- a good place for aerobic lunge-walking. One does not anticipate seeing great numbers of Hispanic working-class persons out aerobic lunge-walking to work in the new linear park, because, after all, they still need their cars on the other side.

Can they drive to work on the new Calatrava bridge? Not really. But if they quit work, they could pass their days lunge-walking and then pop onto the Calatrava to the arts district for a thing at the opera. All they would need for that, after all, is money.

Let's be serious. This bridge goes nowhere. That is even the point of the thing. Its very purpose is to create a new somewhere where that somewhere does not now exist. That somewhere will have nothing to do with the people of West Dallas. It will supplant them. It is the sworn foe of West Dallas, as West Dallas exists today.

Is it wrong to use public money to spur development? Maybe not. But we might ask ourselves how that idea is working out elsewhere. In a column for next week's paper, I will look at the public money invested so far in the development around the basketball arena.

Usually somebody wants to use public money to distort the market more than help it along. We have a ton of fancy-schmancy new high-rise buildings on the downtown side of the river, a lot if them basically sucking wind in a weak market anyway.

So tell me again why we need more of it on the other side of the river? No, seriously, tell me. I'm curious.

It's not that there isn't some very cool stuff happening over there. But the best things taking place -- like Monte Anderson's Commerce Street Airstream business park -- are organic and incremental. They are cunningly tied to what's going on over there anyway already. They don't need a big screaming bridge crashing into the shore like a beached battleship.

In fact the bridge is their enemy, too, insofar as it threatens them with typical Galleria-style North Dallas 1980s glitzoid crap development. Which it does.

What I found in driving over there was what anybody could figure out from Google maps. The thing goes nowhere. There is no there there yet. And if and when there is a there there, it will not be the there that's there now.

So did we need a new there there? More to the point, did we want to pay for it with our tax money?

The hat-cam is sort of addictive. It makes me want to drive around town with my window rolled down yelling, "Cut!" If I do that, I will share, but this time it will be very Sundance. Very Sundance. I shall be praised. You shall see. Respect.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze