A century later, Dallas bridge makes way for streetcars




Posted on February 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 18 at 8:40 PM

DALLAS — Big changes are coming for drivers who use two of the primary bridges linking downtown Dallas and Oak Cliff.

The one-way, southbound Houston Street Viaduct is closing soon to meet its long-planned destiny. It's an exciting change, according to Bob Stimson, who heads the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce

"They're going to build that streetcar that's going to go directly from the Convention Center right over to Bishop Arts, and so this project overall is a great thing for Oak Cliff," Stimson said

After the 1908 flood, the city built and opened the viaduct in 1912, as seen in historical photos easily found online. Streetcar lines were planned, but never added.

Until now.

The city, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments will build a single streetcar track with $42 million in federal grants.

Unlike the McKinney Avenue trolley, the Oak Cliff line cars have a modern design, with no wires overhead on the bridge.

But while the viaduct is closed, the one-way, northbound Jefferson Street bridge from Oak Cliff will be adapted to accomodate two-way traffic.

Some drivers, like Josh Daniels, are already wary.

"There's not much traffic on this bridge — it's an old bridge, but you never know," he said. "Y'know, as long as there are no idiots out here — which there is, so..."

The first big change comes the weekend of March 8 when the Jefferson bridge is shut down and re-striped. It will then reopen March 11, when the Houston Street Viaduct closes.

Stimson anticipates some confusion.

"Obviously, people are going to have to be careful when they're driving," he said. "I don't anticipate, in all honesty, having too many safety issues associated with this change. Just more confusion and people coming and trying, and realizing they can't go across the bridge."

The Houston Street Viaduct will be closed into fall 2014, when the bridge — and the new streetcar line — will open.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com