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A work crew prepares Fort Worth's coolest bridge for its close-up. Photo by Jeff Prince.

Fort Worth’s majestic West 7th Street Bridge cost about $26 million to build and is only two years old. So we were surprised while driving across the bridge this week to see the concrete archways looking rather discolored, patchy, and worn.

And then we saw an electrician’s crew with four or five people hard at work underneath the arches.

Is the bridge sick?

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Kind of. But not really.

“The spottiness you are referring to is related to the structure of the bridge being constructed in pre-cast form,” city spokesperson Cindy Vasquez wrote in an email. “The bridge sections were poured off site in forms and with this type of construction, there is some minor discoloration of the concrete as well as areas of very minor imperfections. These areas are then smoothed (rubbed out with mortar) during the inspection, punch list, and final phase of construction.”

The Texas Department of Transportation inspects the bridge every two years, including a detailed examination of its structural integrity, Vasquez said.

“The bridge is in excellent condition and has normal wear related to the concrete structure,” she said.

The electrician’s crew was there for another reason: colored lights.

Rains have damaged the lighting system since the bridge was built. The electrical junction boxes were filling with water during storms and becoming rusted. Lights were shorting out.

“We decided to upgrade the system by installing marine-grade materials including 168 lights,” Vasquez said.

The new lights will be energy-saving, rain-resistant LED fixtures. City officials can program the lights to wash the bridge in purple during TCU game days, or to shine red, white, and blue light on July Fourth, or pink on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or –– hint, hint –– red and yellow to honor the Fort Worth Weekly for being such a beloved pain in everyone’s ass.

It will take a long while for the energy-saving fixtures to cover the $200,000 hickey for replacing the lighting system, but it’s a worthwhile upgrade in our eyes. City officials and TxDOT partnered on the project and built the bridge under budget. That resulted in a $1.8 million reimbursement to the city, and the money for the new lights will come from that surplus. The electrical crew is expected to finish the work in mid-November.

 

TCU Diversifies … Noisily

If someone asked you, “What do the students at TCU look like?,” you’d be forgiven for saying, “Mostly white. And wearing khaki shorts. And Polos! Lots of Polos!”

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini (a white guy) is clearly aware of the public perception. He sent a campus-wide email this week announcing the addition of a new staff position –– chief inclusion officer and Title IX coordinator –– to address issues of exclusion or bias within the university. The move came after Boschini said last week that three students had come forward expressing concern about racial bias on campus

The position –– effective immediately –– goes to Dr. Darron Turner (a black guy), the former associate vice chancellor for student affairs. Turner will be responsible for “ensuring that members of the Horned Frog community are afforded the right to work and learn in an atmosphere free of biases based on age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, covered veteran status, or any other basis protected by law,” Boschini wrote.

Whew. Trying to remember everyone you can’t discriminate against will be tough for students already over-burdened with trying to figure out who to accept, reject, or haze on Hell Night.

A current TCU student (who writes freelance stories for the Weekly) tells us she knows of a problem more common than discrimination. She says disrespectful behavior abounds in classrooms, with students talking through lectures and Skyping and Snapchatting on their phones. The student doesn’t consider herself a whiny complainer, but she isn’t crazy about paying $42,580 in annual tuition at a major, private, four-year university to listen to a bunch of yakkity yak in class. She feels frustrated for being, uh, more interested in hearing what her teacher has to say rather than listening to big-mouthed classmates discuss The Big Bang Theory and what’s for lunch. OK, maybe she’s a bit of an apple polisher but she has a point.

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