What you see above are crews using a big-ass crane and a specially made "sling" to set in place the center arch for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Oh, and the view? It's from high atop Unfair Park HQ. But you can see it right outside our editorial-side windows. Schutze has been staring at it all day. He still insists it isn't there.
They started lifting the piece at 10:30 this morning, says Duane Milligan, TxDOT's construction engineer in charge of the project. Milligan told me we're looking at 160 feet of center-piece, and "it'll be right around 400 feet" when it's done. But that won't be till "some time in July," he says.
After it's set, crews will bolt the sucker down, then come back and weld the seams; till then, temporary cables will hold up the center arch.
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"Then they'll release the cables," Milligan says. "They have to put down more of the central box girders -- the white box running down the middle. And those things that look like wings are floor beams, which hold up the deck. They'll finish out the box, the floor beams and cast the concrete deck across there. That's when the cables get strung from the arch to the central box. That'll be later in the project, toward the end." Which is to say: Early next year at the earliest.
Wait. What's that? Jim, you want to add something? OK, then.
Floor's all yours, Jim.
Raise it up higher. Higher and higher. The higher the better. I want to be able to see the Calatrava Bridge over the Trinity from Oklahoma, so I can laugh all the way home from the Indian casino. I must remind, meanwhile, that raising the phallic centerpiece of the bridge does not consummate the bridge's faltering conjugal connection with the land. The scheme mentioned for fixing the problems caused by the bridge's intersection with the levees is not the same idea as the scheme mentioned for fixing the levees themselves.
For the bridge -- apparently designed and launched without an adequate study of underlying soil conditions -- the proposed fix is more dirt piled onto the levee on the west side of the river. For the levees -- apparently neglected by the city until they have become effectively useless -- the fix mentioned has been a concrete curtain wall beneath the levees down to bedrock.
Not that one fix couldn't complement the other. But you'd have to know how you were going to attack both problems before you could go after either one, and then you'd have to know how the city is going to pay for them both, probably with a bond election that would have to succeed. So I don't really see the fake suspension bridge getting connected to its real ramps on the west side any time soon, like in the next couple years.
Hoist it on up there, I say. I still believe it's going to be a world-renowned folly, a laughingstock and the end of Santiago Calatrava as we now him today, hoist on his own petard.