FOR T WORTH — The Texas Department of Transportation promised the West 7th Street Bridge would take no more than five months to complete, and with a little help from the contractors, they made good on that promise Wednesday.
A brief ceremony at 5 o'clock celebrated the opening of the bridge about one month ahead of schedule.
The West 7th Street Bridge over the Trinity River links the Cultural District with downtown Fort Worth.
"It's beautiful, and it's been great to watch as it's been going up," said Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns. "Now that it's almost complete, I'm quite happy with it."
Drivers and business owners who endured four months of detours are also ecstatic.
"I'm so ready for it to reopen," said Jennifer Ledbetter, a Fort Worth driver. "We've been going all the way around, different ways, discovering new places, but it will just be nice to be able to go straight downtown."
The construction company behind the new bridge will receive a $1 million bonus for finishing ahead of schedule, according to a TxDOT spokesman.
The new bridge replaces a century old bridge that was beyond repair. To make sure the critical roadway between downtown Fort Worth and the expanding Cultural District wasn't disrupted, workers started construction off-site in January 2012, and didn't impact traffic until this summer.
"Using a traditional design, it would have been closed for almost a year," said Val Lopez with TxDOT. "Using this design that we are using here — the world's first precast network arch bridge — we had it closed less than 150 days."
The contractor received a $33,000 bonus for every day the bridge was completed early. Had they gone beyond the deadline, they would have had been held liable for $33,000 every day until completion.
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for next month.