Thursday, August 30, 2012

A view of, and from, the newly opened (and quite finished) Joe Ratcliff ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Click to enlarge a look at the entrance to the Joe Ratcliff Pedestrian Bridge before, at left, and after its redo courtesy the LBJ Express project

First, a reminder: Don’t go anywhere near LBJ Freeway and the Dallas North Tollway this weekend, starting tomorrow night. Just. Don’t.

But speaking of the toll-roading of LBJ, a reader took note of that earlier item and wanted to make sure we knew there were, let’s say, issues with the new Joe Ratcliff Pedestrian Bridge, which shuttered with one last blast in August 2011 and finally reopened Monday â€" several months after it was originally scheduled to reconnect Northwest Dallas with Farmers Branch and William L. Cabell Elementary School. Complains this particular core reader, the quality of the bridge is “shoddy”; the design is “awful”; and, worst of all, it’s incomplete.

Moreover, he insists, “They talked about lighting, emergency call boxes and trash cans” for the bridge, “but decided they were all too expensive and couldn’t be included in the design.”

That missive prompted my Wednesday-morning visit to the bridge, photos of which you can see above and below. And as you’ll note the new walkway bears little resemblance to its much beloved predecessor: It’s no longer enclosed, and the shaded, straight-shot entrance at Cromwell and High Meadow Drives has been replaced by the mammoth zig-zag concrete ramp that looks remarkably out of place in the neighborhood.

But it’s done, says Andy Rittler, director of corporate affairs for the LBJ Infrastructure Group.

“The design we have is completed,” he told me Wednesday evening. “It basically meets all the safety and ADA standards, so that’s how it’s going to look.” Which isn’t to say there couldn’t be some changes: LBJ Express higher-ups, he says, are talking to city of Dallas officials about some “aesthetic landscaping” ideas, among them “how to keep trash from piling up around the bridge.” But, says Rittler, “There’s not a whole lot of room for greenery. The bridge serves its function.”

And the Texas Department of Transportation is considering that emergency call box. But other than that, well, that’s that.

“This is the new TxDOT design” for its pedestrian bridges, he says. “The cage? That’s gone away. The ramp? That’s all ADA. The bikers hate it, because they can’t go straight down like they used to. But that’s all ADA-compliant. As for landscaping, the issue will always be: Who’s responsible for the upkeep? And as for lighting, it’s a bridge for school kids, and I don’t know many school kids crossing the bridge at night. At the end of the day it’s done.” See for yourself below.

The bridge was enclosed in its previous incarnation; today, it's open air.

A view of the bridge from the ramp on the east side of LBJ.

Well, it does provide a scenic view of LBJ, as evidenced by ...

... this photo of traffic on LBJ.

It's not just a ramp -- it's a tunnel too!

Andy Rittler acknowledges: Cyclists aren't fond of the long and winding ramp now used to access the bridge.

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