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It’ll Be Another Three Years and $7 Million Before We Can Walk the Margaret McDermott Bridge

Can you think of other ways to use $122 million?
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It’s going to cost the city at least another $7 million to fix the problems with the Margaret McDermott pedestrian bridge, which has never opened because it is not safe to traverse. In 2016, three of the rods that hold the cables cracked from its anchoring system after heavy winds. This should’ve been predictable, but documents published by mayoral hopeful and Councilman Scott Griggs show the city skipped a critical stress test. The $115 million bridge was built anyway, and it didn’t take long for strong winds to burst the thing. It’s been shut down since, unless you’re Griggs and Brett Shipp, who recently made the mayoral candidate a promotional video based on the bridge failure.

Last Friday, Assistant City Manager Majed Al-Ghafry sent the council a memo detailing their options. TxDOT offered two: one will cost $7.09 million and “involves fabricating and testing new lower cable anchorage assemblies, replacing all existing cables, and installing additional cable dampers.” The other is a more localized option, retrofitting instead of replacing the assembly with a new lower socket and a larger anchor rod. But the state couldn’t price that one “due to a level of uncertainty of fabrication engineering and non-standard components.” So replacement it is.

It will take 34 months for this to be completed from the date the City Council gives its OK. Al-Ghafry says he plans to have this before the Council for a vote during next week’s meeting. So we’re looking at a total of $122 million and nearly seven years before residents can hypothetically walk across this bridge, which is structurally separate from the stretch of Interstate 30 that it borders. That roadway is an overpass; the pedestrian bridge is accented with Santiago Calatrava-designed arches that are anchored by those cables. Which means it wasn’t necessary in the first place if you were only looking to give walkers and bikers a place to walk and bike.

To put that into context, the 50-mile Circuit Trail, better known as The Loop, was budgeted for just $43 million with the goal of providing a connected, paved trail from White Rock Lake all the way to the Great Trinity Forest in southern Dallas. This fiscal year, the city sets aside just $1 million for putting in protected bike lanes. Next year that will jump to $1.5 million. After that, it’ll cap at $2 million annually. Before that, the city was allotting just $500,000 total.

Instead, we have about a quarter mile pedestrian bridge that will cost the city another $7 million and won’t be able to open for another three years. Meanwhile, Dallas is retaining its right to sue “all responsible parties for the additional costs.” The rest of the money will come from the original sale of the land and the easements associated with the bridge, according to the memo.

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