A popular bridge connecting west Fort Worth to downtown is about to finally get its long-awaited makeover.Workers on Tuesday began the slow process of moving 12 giant arches each weighing a whopping 300 tons into place for assembly of the new West Seventh Street bridge.The new structure is scheduled to be completed before Thanksgiving providing the city with an artistic new look for its transportation grid and its downtown skyline. But motorists will have to show patience with a string of road closures at the bridge beginning Wednesday night.Movement of the first arch on Tuesday afternoon proved an arduous task.The plan was to move the 163-foot-long, harp-shaped structure about 500 feet from its construction site just east of the Target at Montgomery Plaza. The arch was to be parked for about two and a half days near the intersection of West Seventh Street and Stayton Street, just across the road from Chuy's Mexican restaurant, before being moved about another 1,000 feet to its final spot over the Clear Fork of the Trinity River on Friday morning.But workers had a scary moment Tuesday afternoon about 100 feet into their trip.The arch which was being carried on two giant dollies, each with 120 wheels shifted and swayed at least a foot in each direction. It happened as the arch was being driven, by remote control, over a metal ramp placed over a water line for protection.Workers operating the equipment and walking alongside it immediately brought it to a halt. A few workers could be seen yelling and running for cover, out of fear that the arch might collapse.But after a one-hour delay, workers determined the arch was stable enough to continue its move.Rolling to the riverThe plan for the first few days of the project is to take whatever time and care is necessary to work out the bugs and ensure the arches can be moved safely to the river on Friday, said Val Lopez, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman.The initial plan was to move cranes and other equipment on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then start to move the first arch on Thursday. But officials decided to go ahead and start moving the first arch on Tuesday, Lopez said.That decision may help the project stay on schedule. Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday.We still have to more 163 feet and 300 tons, so were going to be methodical, thoughtful and careful, because everyone wants this delivered safely, Lopez said.Weather permitting, crews on Friday morning are scheduled to move the first arch into place over the river by rolling it up the bridge, and hoisting it onto its supports with cranes.A second arch will then be moved into place later on Friday, or on Saturday, if all goes according to plan. Then, workers with Sundt Construction and Burkhalter, which specializes in lifting enormous objects, plan to move the remaining 10 arches one at a time.They are scheduled to complete that phase no later than 5 a.m. Tuesday.Alternate routesThe movement of the arches may be a reminder to motorists who normally use West Seventh Street to get to and from downtown Fort Worth that they should probably get into the habit of using alternate routes over the next several months.Beginning in mid-June, the bridge will be entirely closed for up to 150 days so workers can demolish the old structure and put in place a new one.Already this week, bus routes in west Fort Worth are being rerouted during the construction of the new West Seventh Street bridge. Bus riders who normally use Route 2 to get to the Montgomery Plaza and West Seventh areas will instead use Route 10 which is adding service to accommodate the extra passengers.Route 2 will still go to west Fort Worth, but will bypass West Seventh Street by using West Lancaster Avenue instead.The T anticipates these schedules to be in place at least through the end of September, spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson