Something has been bothering me about the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge ever since I read this post by Jason last week. In it, Lynn McBee, a “super-fundraiser” who is helping with this weekend’s opening celebration for the new Calatrava-designed bridge, compares the impact the bridge will have on the western portion of the city to that of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sigh Let’s jump.
For the past week, while driving across Continental Ave. Bridge, or sitting in traffic on I-30, or riding the bus over the Houston St. Viaduct, or meandering through the parking lot construction (whoopee!) on Singleton, I’ve been muttering David Byrne’s unofficial anthem of the bridge opening (“Same as it ever was”) and trying to figure out why McBee’s comment bothered me so much.
Then, making my way over Commerce Street Bridge yesterday, it hit me. The problem with comparing the MHH with the Brooklyn Bridge is that it betrays an egregious dismissal (ignorance?) of Dallas’ own history.
Dallas already built its “Brooklyn Bridge;” it was the Commerce Street Bridge, built in 1855 by Alexander Cockrell and replaced with a suspension bridge (pictured) in 1872 by his wife, Sarah (a historical model of the kind of philanthropic businesswomen, like McBee, that this city prides itself on). It’s been upgraded since then, of course, but that bridge, like the Brooklyn Bridge, replaced ferry traffic between the east and west banks of the Trinity and allowed for increased settlement and commercial development on the western side of the river.
The Brooklyn Bridge opened up New York’s second largest borough to Manhattan; West Dallas has been open to Dallas for more than a century. Some of it is quite lovely; other parts have been shamefully neglected, not because of the lack of transportation infrastructure, but because of a historical legacy of social and political ineptitude. So, will newer, shinier transportationÂ infrastructureÂ change that area’s future? I’m a skeptic, but you can argue about that in the comments.
For now, as we get all excited about this Friday’s high-class shindig and Saturday’s street party on a bridge built for cars, let’s just keep ol’ Sarah Cockrell in mind. Call the new bridge a “Manhattan Bridge,” a “Triborough” — hell, a “Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.” But, please, have some respect for this city’s own history: it’s not our Brooklyn Bridge.