Dallas City Council defends spending millions on bridge design

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on April 13, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 13 at 4:07 PM

DALLAS - The Dallas City Council moved forward Wednesday morning with a controversial and expensive plan to redesign the interstate 30 replacement bridge over the Trinity River.

The majority on the council had to defend spending $92 million in federal earmarks for extra design features it wants on the bridge. Those features are more expensive than a standard bridge that the state says it will build for much less.

The council on Wednesday was asked to approve $10.7 million for Spanish architect Calatrava to do the work,

First, the city wants the redesign for a scaled down bridge because the original plan became way too expensive. Calatrava's first plan was a four span bridge just for traffic to replace the aging Interstate 30 bridge that is 50 to 60 years old and wearing out.

The city envisions something cheaper, about $314 million, with paths for pedestrians and bikes now and expects the $92 million in federal earmarks to pay for all the design extras.

Council member Angela Hunt questioned whether the city should not apply the earmarks to expense of a basic bridge costing about $220 million.

"I do believe that in these economic times, it doesn’t make sense to spend extra tax dollars, public funds, taxpayer money on elaborate architectural construction when we have real infrastructure needs," said Hunt, Dallas City Council member.

Most members did not share her sentiments.

"Clearly we need to step forward and say we need more than a standard TXDOT bridge," said Dave Neuman, city council member. "An improved, signature style Margaret McDermott Bridge will bring economic development."

The council ended up voting 13-1, with Hunt the only dissenting vote, to spend $10.7 million dollars on the redesign work.

Much of the money has been donated by the Trinity Trust Foundation, but $3.5 million are Dallas taxpayer dollars that the city hopes regional transportation planners will reimburse.

The state has said it is unsure whether the federal earmark dollars must go toward just the extra designs the city wants or just basic bridge construction.

What is certain is that TXDOT wants to replace the bridge sooner than later and they want to start construction to replace it in mid 2012.

Email: bwatson@wfaa.com

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