Sunday, March 4, 2012
Photos: Attendees at Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge walk on bridge for first, only time
The $182 million bridge, five years in the making, is finally finished.
DALLAS St. Louis has its Gateway Arch symbolizing westward expansion. Now Dallas officially has its own smaller version. A weekend-long celebration marked the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, a connection between downtown and West Dallas over the Trinity River that has been five years in the making. The Santiago Calatrava arch and cable design has the potential to reconnect and revitalize an area of West Dallas that has largely been cut off for many years.
A free street fair on Saturday was the first opportunity for the general public to step foot on the bridge. Although the fair was a big draw, most folks seemed to come to the bridge for one reason -- to be part of history. Attendees captured the view with cameras or cell phones. Since the bridge does not have a pedestrian path, this was a rare chance to see it from a walking perspective. It closed to foot traffic Sunday evening and will only be accessible to vehicles for the rest of its life span.
“We wanted to say we walked across the new bridge,” said West Dallas resident Neftali Marquez, who walked to the celebration with her mother, cousin, and sisters. “It’s beautiful when you stand in the middle and look up.”
For her, the bridge will have an immediate benefit. It will provide a quicker way for her to get downtown and to work. She said they also enjoy stepping out into their backyard and seeing the glow of its arch at night.
Christy Hoffman of Oak Cliff was one of the first to get on the bridge Saturday when she ran the Trinity River Levee Run that crossed the bridge that morning. “To really get under it and see the enormity of it was pretty cool,” she recalled.
Hoffman returned later with her family to take part in the street fair. Like many, she believes the bridge will bring much-needed change. “I’m really hoping this connection will rejuvenate this area, but still keep a very local feel and not let it get too corporate or franchised,” she said.
Margaret Sanchez, a West Dallas native, has mixed feelings about the connection. She worries about too much change, too fast. She watched the area develop naturally from when she was a child, sharing a small two bedroom house with a large family.
“I’m proud of the fact that I was born and raised in West Dallas. Look at all we have gone through. Look at all we have done. Look at where we’re at. Look at what we’ve accomplished,” she said.
The Parade of Giants, which kicked off Saturday afternoon, highlighted some West Dallas history Sanchez referred to. About a dozen local artists paired with local organizations to create larger-than-life papier mache puppets of great historical figures, such as Julien Reverchon, Sarah Cockrell, Myrtle Davis, Rhoda Drago, and the infamous Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. At the west entrance, they met the Parade of Builders from the east side.
Once the parades ended, people swarmed onto the bridge, first passing through a light security check. (Later in the afternoon, security held people back so the bridge would not surpass occupancy levels.) The fair was set up on the westbound lanes of the bridge. One side featured vendor tents and an event stage. Local food trucks like Trailercakes, Nammi, and Ruthie’s occupied the opposite lane. There were plenty of tables to stand and eat food truck delights while enjoying the live music, kicked off by Dallas native Larry g(EE). Street artists and performers dispersed throughout the bridge added to its festivity.
Casey Colvin of Dallas came out to just experience this culture.
“Our city is awesome. It’s a great way to celebrate a new beginning for Dallas,” she said.
She was also excited to see the finished murals, painted by one of her favorite contemporary artists Shepard Fairey, adorning many areas of West Dallas. The striking artwork, painted on the sides of existing warehouses and other buildings, features proud figures and words like "Rise Above." Colvin said the murals add more vibrancy to an area that she already finds inspirational.
Her daughter Suvi and friend Khloey Owen, both 8, had slightly different views. They were mostly excited to see the puppets in the Parade of Giants, the butterfly release and, of course, enjoy some cotton candy. Once on the bridge, they seemed awestruck.
“It’s probably 100 feet tall!” Owen said.
The celebration was not limited to the bridge. West Dallas Chamber of Commerce sponsored Bridge-o-Rama, which included related events all over the area, many lining the streets of Singleton Boulevard from the bridge. One big event was El Cemento in the Southern Star concrete facility building at the base of the bridge. This display highlighted some of the Mexican American culture that helped shape the area through stories and photos. A more extended exhibit will be at the Old Red Museum through May 27.
The bridge will open to car traffic later in the month. Only time will tell, though, if it will live up its promise of hope and renewal.
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opening ceremonies included performances by Burning Hotels and Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights (March 3)
Pegasus News Content partner - The Assignment Desk, DFW
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