A plan to convert the Continental Avenue bridge between downtown and West Dallas into an elaborate pedestrian boulevard complete with sidewalks, bike lanes and green spaces received a major boost Thursday.
The private Trinity Trust announced an anonymous $10 million gift to fund construction of many of the bridge's planned features, including a winding, tree-covered walkway.
The gift, in honor of Trinity Trust chairwoman Mary McDermott Cook, is expected to speed the bridge's transformation from a busy thoroughfare into a 2,000-foot-long, 50-foot-wide park between the levees.
"I'm so glad we are going to do something that will make a place in the Trinity - before we get all of the other work done - for all of the people of Dallas," said McDermott Cook, who has asked that the bridge not be renamed for her.
Thursday's announcement at the Trinity Trust on Oak Lawn Avenue was attended by celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, designer of two soaring white-steel bridges that supporters of the Trinity River project hope will become symbols of Dallas and a signal of the city's commitment to culture and beauty.
The first Calatrava-designed bridge, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, is under construction between the Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Singleton Boulevard.
Officials hope to see that bridge completed by 2011, when work could begin on the conversion of the Continental bridge.
Mayor Tom Leppert expressed confidence that the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will be finished by 2011.
But construction of the bridge's approaches remains under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency is concerned that supports for the approaches could weaken the levees.
City Manager Mary Suhm said the corps and the Texas Department of Transportation are working on a solution.
"They have assured me it will be resolved in a timely fashion," she said.
The second Calatrava bridge, the Margaret McDermott Bridge to replace the current Interstate 30 bridge, has been designed but is not funded for construction.
Margaret McDermott was the wife of Texas Instruments founder Eugene McDermott and the mother of McDermott Cook. The family has been closely involved with realizing the Trinity project.
Speaking to City Council members and Trinity project backers on Thursday, Calatrava urged them to continue working to see the whole project completed.
"The beautiful is difficult," he said, calling Dallas a young and changing city.
The pedestrian bridge is an opportunity to create beauty and distinction in a public space, he said.
"In just these two minutes, getting across the river, you are in an exceptional place," he said.
The city of Dallas has paid $2 million toward design of the pedestrian bridge. The $10 million will be used for construction, Suhm said. Without the gift, construction would have had to wait for the passage of another bond package.
Though renderings by design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd include a streetcar running along the bridge's north side, that plan is conceptual and unfunded.
Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, a key designer of the bridge conversion, said the plan includes elevations along the bridge that would give it a hilly effect in some areas.
At 9 a.m. today, the city will close the Continental bridge for the day for a "Bridge Fair" celebrating construction of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
The event sponsored by the Trinity Trust and others begins at 7:30 p.m. and requires a ticket for entrance.