Thousands turn out to stroll Dallas’ new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Saturday March 3, 2012
Dallas Morning News – by Melissa Repko
On foot and on bicycle, pushing baby strollers and using walkers, curious members of the public came out to get their first look at the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on Saturday.
Thousands of people strolled the span, jammed to music and enjoyed the day’s carnival-like atmosphere. Many peered up at the sky through the bridge’s wired strings of steel and whipped out cellphones to snap photos of downtown’s new landmark.
“I’ve seen it, but I wanted to see it up close,” said Tom Chapman of Dallas. “As Dallas strives to be more cosmopolitan in its national view, I think this is going to be a big addition.”
During the celebration, the diverse population seemed to blend together for a single cause. Damon Polk of Cedar Hill brought his son Damon Jr. to the street fair, where they ate a lunch of grilled cheese and watched a parade. Polk said he was impressed by the variety of the crowd.
“Today you don’t know who has money or who doesn’t,” he said. “We are just all celebrating Dallas. This sort of thing makes me feel right at home.”
The day began early with thousands of runners dashing across the bridge in the Trinity River Levee Run.
It was the eighth annual run, and with the bridge a key part of the route, the 10K and 5K event was different from past races.
When David Greenblatt of North Dallas ran the race three years ago, he vowed to never do it again: “It was hot. It was dusty, and it was brutal,” he said.
But he signed up for this year’s 5K after learning that it would include the new bridge. Saturday’s route, which wound through the city’s Design District and crossed over the bridge twice, was pleasant, he said.
“It’d be nice to have some more pedestrian races here,” he said. “It’s a beautiful bridge.”
At noon, other members of the public were given access to the bridge. Bill and Marge Carpenter of Dallas were among those who waited patiently.
“They should have done something with the Trinity River ages ago,” Marge Carpenter said.
Doug and Lucy Larson of Plano also attended. Doug Larson said that when he drives down the Dallas North Tollway, he often looks for the bridge, which he said he can see all the way from Addison.
“It’s one of those unique things to be able to walk across,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day to get out and be a part of something that supports the city.”
Security staff used clickers to make sure the bridge didn’t exceed its capacity of 6,750 people. The crowd on the span at any given time peaked at about 3,770, said Todd Fiscus, the weekend’s event planner. About 16,000 people had crossed the bridge by midafternoon, he said.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the fire marshal temporarily barred people from entering the bridge as a precaution after it seemed to be shaking. It reopened about 15 minutes later after officials determined nothing was wrong.
Carlos and Margaret Tobias of Irving said they never expected to see such a large span connect downtown Dallas to the area where they grew up on North Hampton Road in West Dallas. They said they hope the bridge will have a noticeable impact on their old neighborhood.
“It’s not as high as I’d like,” Margaret Tobias said. “But it’s there.”
For Duane Milligan, who worked on the bridge for two years as a construction engineer for the state Department of Transportation, Saturday was especially meaningful. Milligan, a Midlothian resident, was one of the workers honored in the builders parade.
He brought his wife and three young children — a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old twins — and spent the day navigating through the crowd with a twin stroller.
“They call it Daddy’s bridge whenever they see it,” he said of his children. “I hope they can see that they can be involved in big things in their lives as well.”
In West Dallas, a parade of giant puppets made to honor leaders who helped shape Dallas history began on Singleton Avenue and proceeded across the bridge.
Meanwhile, for emerging businesses in West Dallas, the day was a chance to attract foot traffic and promote the neighborhood.
The West Dallas Chamber of Commerce set up a booth on the bridge. Randall White, chairman of the chamber, said that in recent days he has received dozens of calls from businesses interested in West Dallas.
“More people have come to West Dallas in the past week than ever before,” he said. “It’s good for the investors, and it’s good for the community.”
Business partners George Esquivel and Greg Leftwich were at the future home of their business on Singleton, just west of the bridge. They plan to open Four Corners Brewing Co. this summer.
The two hired a brew master with more than 20 years of experience to help create the beer, but they said it’s the invigorated area that will help launch their success.
“There’s an adventurous spirit here,” Leftwich said. “We want to capitalize on that.”
NeighborsGo staff writers Danielle Abril and Rose Baca contributed to this story.
7:30 a.m.: Trinity Trust’s blessing of the bridge and dedication ceremony. Sunrise is expected at 6:50 a.m. The bridge closes at 4 p.m.
Various times: Bridge-o-Rama’s “Come Home” interfaith event with services at more than 30 places of worship in West Dallas. Also, gallery exhibits, antique appraisals, pet adoptions, readings and a historic cemetery tour.
More information: bridge-o-rama.com