Corpus Christi Caller Times

"A New Bridge to the Future"

A new harbor bridge for Corpus Christi? But we love our bridge. It has been the most instantly recognizable image of our city for 40 years. It extends like a familiar welcome mat after a long trip away. Nevertheless, as reported in the Corpus Christi Caller Times, a plan has been proposed to replace the existing bridge with a new bridge which will accommodate larger ships and will be safer for vehicles and pedestrians.

Like a nearby mountain, the Harbor Bridge has long served as a powerful backdrop looming over many of the city's attractions: the museums, the water garden , the convention center, the port and the aquarium.

But to the west, beneath its shadow, the 1959 steel truss bridge has inadvertently created a no-man's land. It divides and constricts access to key public and private land on both sides of the harbor. In reality, our much loved bridge has sliced through a broad swath of valuable and strategic public land and diminished its potential. Some larger cities are beginning to recognize the barriers that some freeway structures have created within its urban fabric and are taking bold steps to alleviate them.

The benefits to traffic and to the Port of a safer and bigger new bridge may be self-evident, but moving it westward opens other urban opportunities that would have an even more profound impact on our city.

So, suppose we do moved the bridge up the channel a piece as proposed. Let's imagine what can be.

Imagine first a new icon that represents the city in the 21st century. New long span pre-cast concrete technology and suspension engineering have created the potential for bridges more beautiful than ever, and ones which do not require sandblasting and painting. In Seville, Spain, two new elegant bridges were built for the World Expo and became instantly world renowned and a source of pride for the city.

Imagine an automated mono-rail system running along side of the new bridge, providing convenient shuttle for locals and tourists. Through the tram's windows, one of the most spectacular views in Texas can delight passengers with photo ops and a memorable ride.

Imagine a broad and beautiful oak lined boulevard at the existing bridge right-of-way, beginning at I-37 near the old courthouse and leading into the center of a much expanded civic district. The Bayfront Arts and Sciences Park has long suffered from the lack of a well-defined, prominent and convenient entry. The public land beneath the current bridge could be the key.

Imagine that this oak lined boulevard resumes across the harbor on Corpus Christi Beach and becomes the commercial and entertainment spine of that district - a sort of Champs Elysees for shorts and sandals.

Imagine a large urban park. Many people have long talked of one, but downtown land is too scarce and ownership too fractured to gain momentum. Underutilized industrial land "reclaimed" for public use by moving the bridge to the west could create the opportunity for an urban park that embraces the historic Bayview Cemetery and Heritage Park. It could even provide an arena site west of the new oak lined boulevard, and who knows what else.

Imagine cruise ships bringing visitors with money to spend, arriving at the very heart of this rejuvenated harbor center that spans the water where the old bridge once stood.

Indeed, some of this may seemed like pipe dreams, but the right urban infrastructure can make such dreams not only possible but inevitable. The seawall virtually predestined a grand row of Shoreline Drive high rise hotels, office buildings, and condominiums that has sixty years later only just begun to materialize. A new relocated world-class, low maintenance, safe and soaringly beautiful urban bridge for Corpus Christi would certainly unlock possibilities for the public good in ways that we can now only begin to imagine.