Wendy Hall stood atop the new West Seventh Street bridge Friday evening as the sun went down. A soft white recessed light illuminated the 600,000-pound concrete arch that framed her view of the Trinity River below.
She soaked in the atmosphere and thought about the many days ahead in which she will be able to jog across the new $26 million bridge.
The bridge opened to traffic on Oct. 9 but was officially dedicated Friday with a night of fine food, dancing and speeches.
The grand opening will continue on Saturday with a parade and other activities free and open to the public beginning at 10 a.m. For motorists, the bridge is expected to remain closed to car traffic until mid-afternoon Saturday to make room for the revelry.
The bridge also features extra-wide sidewalks on both sides of the 12 arches that span the nearly 1,000-foot-long structure — creating a buffer zone for pedestrians and cyclists.
“I feel like this is my baby,” said Hall, who splits time between a home in the nearby West Seventh Street area and one in Grayson County.
Hall said that several years ago she spoke at Fort Worth City Hall about the need to replace the old West Seventh bridge, which had failed several state inspections and was on its way to becoming a safety hazard.
The affair on Friday night featured many of Fort Worth’s finest chefs, serving up items such as duck and cranberry hors d’oeuvres. More than 300 people paid $77 each to eat, drink and dance to the horn-laced Texas blues music of Johnny Reno. Proceeds were to go to the party’s chief sponsor, Streams & Valleys, a nonprofit group that aims to preserve and encourage use of the Trinity River.
A fireworks show was scheduled for 10:07 p.m.
Many attendees wore nightclub garb on the rather warm and breezy evening, while others dressed in clothing that was more typical of the 1913 period when the original West Seventh Street bridge opened.
“I just wanted to honor Van Zandt,” said Paul Martin of Cleburne, who wore a Confederate captain’s uniform. Martin, who is originally from Fort Worth’s Stop Six area, said he is keenly interested in Fort Worth history. In particular, he wanted to chat with passers-by about Maj. K.M. Van Zandt, for whom the original West Seventh Street bridge was later renamed the Van Zandt Viaduct.
At 6:07 p.m. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price formally clicked on the bridge lights.
“Whether you grew up in Fort Worth or just arrived, the West Seventh Street bridge has always been a connector of the city, from downtown to West Seventh and the museums and Trinity Park,” Price said.
A second lighting ceremony was at 7:27 p.m. so that the bridge architect, Texas Department of Transportation design engineer Dean Van Landuyt, could also ceremoniously light up the structure. He came up with the design several years ago while doodling.
Several speakers congratulated state and local officials for getting the bridge built while closing West Seventh Street to traffic for only four months.
During that period, about 40 workers put in long hours to ensure the bridge was open to traffic well before the holiday shopping season began, said Steve Bader, project superintendent for Sundt Construction of San Antonio.
The 12 arches, each weighing 600,000 pounds, were cast in a vacant lot near Montgomery Plaza then moved to the bridge site — an unusual strategy that minimized the amount of time that the structure needed to be closed.
“It shows how the state of Texas can listen to a community and formulate a project,” said Brian Barth, who earlier this month was named the new Fort Worth district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
The party was also cast in Fort Worth style, said Julie Hatch Fairley, noting the many dignitaries who attended. Among them was former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief.
“It’s like the Main Street Arts Festival on a bridge,” she said.