West Seventh Street bridge in Fort Worth reopens

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For the first time in four months, getting from downtown Fort Worth to the Cultural District is once again a breeze.

The new West Seventh Street bridge opened to traffic at 5:05 p.m. Wednesday, with a small parade of dignitaries who helped get the $25.9 million project done leading the way.

The procession was quickly followed by several hundred afternoon commuters, many honking to express their eagerness to use the bridge, which has been closed since June 8.

The westbound lanes were opened first, followed about 15 minutes later by the eastbound lanes.

The new bridge features 12 concrete arches laced with stainless steel webbing. It replaces a 100-year-old structure that had routinely scored failing grades in state safety inspections.

“I’m so excited, first of all because it’s just so beautiful, and it’s going to be so much easier to go downtown,” said retired attorney Chris Rodriguez, who lives on Museum Way in the West Seventh neighborhood and rode her three-wheel bike, with dog Pudge in a basket, to watch the throngs of media cover the bridge’s opening.

A prominent landmark

Although the bridge is now open to traffic, workers will be finishing extra-wide sidewalks, landscaping and other improvements until mid-November.

A big bash is planned for Nov. 15-16, when officials from the city, the Texas Department of Transportation and organizations such as Streams & Valleys celebrate the new landmark.

Those who have pushed for the bridge believe that it not only will be a convenient way to cross the Clear Fork of the Trinity River — as it has been for a century — but also will become a prominent landmark and conversation piece.

The bridge features recessed lighting that should give it a distinctive, modern glow when the sun goes down.

“This is an architectural gem, one of the many we have here in Fort Worth, and it adds to the vibrancy and aesthetic character that is Fort Worth,” Councilman Joel Burns said.

A big bonus

State officials put together an unusual contract to build the bridge while trying to assuage the concerns of area merchants — especially in the thriving West Seventh area, home to some of the city’s hottest shops and restaurants.

Instead of building the 12 arches on site, workers used a nearby vacant field to precast them — a process that took about a year but had virtually no effect on traffic. In May and June, workers slowly rolled the arches into place on the river before the old bridge was cordoned off and demolished.

The contractor, Sundt Construction of San Antonio, was working under an incentive-based contract to open the bridge to traffic before the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear. The company will likely earn most, if not all, of the $990,000 in potential bonus money, although a precise figure remains to be negotiated, mobility coordinator Scott Cooner said.

James Newsom, who owns Fort Worth Running Co. in the West Seventh area, said he hopes the new bridge will bring back lunchtime shoppers.

“We’re really excited the bridge is finally opening. It’s ahead of schedule, really,” Newsom said. “I think it’s going to increase our business. People have been avoiding this area because it’s so hard to get from downtown, especially at noontime. Traffic has been way down, so hopefully it will go back up.”

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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Video: Aerial view of West Seventh Street bridge opening

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