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Fort Worth’s 7th Street bridge gets its close-up in documentary

Posted 4:02pm on Thursday, Apr. 20, 2017

It may not have the history of the Brooklyn bridge, the postcard-perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge, or the esteemed architectural credentials of Dallas’ Margaret Hunt Hill and Margaret McDermott Bridges, but Fort Worth’s West 7th Street Bridge is a marvel in its own right.

That’s the message of “Arc of Innovation: Creating the W. 7th Street Bridge,” a 27-minute film extolling the engineering feats of Cowtown’s comparatively low-budget and low-profile connection over the Trinity River between downtown and the busy West 7th strip. It debuted at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on April 17 and will next be shown on Austin’s PBS outlet, KLRU-TV, on April 27 at 7:30 p.m. if you’re going to be down that way (with repeats at 5 p.m. April 30 and 10:30 p.m. May 1). No word yet on any more DFW screenings though don’t be surprised if it turns up on KERA/13 and other PBS stations beginning in mid-May.

“Arc of Innovation,” produced by the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT), is pretty basic as far as documentaries go – it would be perfect programming for either the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History or the Perot Museum of Nature and Science – but it’s full of fascinating details about the bridge that many hustling across to get to work downtown or to the brand-spankin’ new Tom Thumb for a half-gallon of milk may not know.

Built in 2013, it’s the bridge with the largest concrete arches in the world. And, whereas comparable bridges might take two to three years to complete, this one – thanks to pre-casting technology – was up and running in 124 days, 26 days earlier than the deadline

The straight-ahead documentary chronicles the construction from the destruction of the old bridge, built in 1913, to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new one. It also details how the mandate was to design a bridge that was both efficient and artful, something that would represent the aims and the style of the Cultural District. There’s even a shot, taken at night against a backdrop of fireworks, where – if you blur your eyes to the point of myopia, don’t examine the image too closely and don’t ask too many questions – it kind of looks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Eve.

If you’re wondering if TxDOT makes movies about all of its projects – maybe we could have a TxDOT film festival? – the answer is no. When queried, a TxDOT spokesperson e-mailed, “We decided to produce a documentary of this particular project to highlight the partnerships involved with the community, area businesses and the city in the selection of the design, the coordination of construction and to record the construction of the world’s first pre-cast network arch bridge. We felt the unique design combined with the unique civic partnerships was an ideal topic for a film.”

Present by omission is that city to the east. Simply by underscoring how construction of the W. 7th Bridge came in under budget, the film gets DFW-area viewers to ponder Dallas’ two beautiful but budget-busting bridges across the Trinity – the Margaret Hunt Hill and the Margaret McDermott – designed by Spanish superstar architect Santiago Calatrava for a combined $293 million.

Fort Worth, under the lead of structural design engineer Dean Van Landuyt, got the job done for $26 million and pocket lint.

They also don’t mention the best thing that happened on the bridge: BMX rider Mat Olson’s nubby-tired stunt of riding across the six 24-foot arches on the bridge’s north side without injuring himself or anyone else.

Maybe they’re saving that for a sequel.

Cary Darling: 817-390-7571, @carydar



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