That’s about the width of the narrow concrete paths that run on both sides of the Harbor Bridge, if that.
Alan Albin has walked it countless times. Each time is an adventure, especially when a semi blows past him at 60 mph.
“Oh, you feel it. You really feel it,” said Albin, who helped create Bridge Walk, a walking group that hikes the span regularly. “It can get scary.”
That could change, if a set of just-released renderings of the span that will replace it in the coming years becomes a reality.
The Caller-Times obtained the images from the Texas Department of Transportation through a Freedom of Information request.
The images are not the final concept for the nearly $1 billion bridge-replacement project, department spokesman Rickey Dailey said. Still, they provide insight into what designers were thinking as they brainstormed the new bridge’s look.
Clearly they wanted to give pedestrians more elbow room.
The renderings depict a walkway wide enough for four or five people, towers with alternating neon lights, landscaped wall treatments to absorb noise and “sculptural beacons” with the city logo, the Texas flag and ocean wave patterns carved into them.
They also showed an extended observation area, or belvedere, with telescopes and curved benches — one facing west with views of the towers and cable stays, the other facing east toward Whataburger Field, North Beach, downtown and the SEA District.
“It’s attractive. The lighting will be fantastic and ... will make it iconic,” Albin said. “People in other parts of the world will see pictures of it and say ‘I want to walk that.’ “
“To be in a place where they can walk, take selfies and take in the view without disturbing other people will make it a better experience for everyone.”
In conceptualizing the new bridge, the designers tried to tell the community’s story, reflecting the coastal beauty through the architectural features, according to a presentation the Caller-Times obtained. The vision is a stark contrast to the industrial feel of the midcentury Harbor Bridge.
“A bridge tells the story of the technology of its time and respects the natural and built environment in a holistic design,” the designers from Flatiron Construction Inc. and Dragados USA Inc. wrote in the presentation.
Certain words kept popping up in conversations about the bridge, they said. Words like gateway, beacon, elegant, treasured landmark, icon.
“From this vision a theme came to life as a unifying connection between the new bridge and the community — Corpus Christi: A Beacon of Coastal Beauty,” they wrote.
The proposed bridge, like the current Harbor Bridge, will have different lighting displays available, such as a red, white and blue theme or a rainbow colored theme. These features will be discussed with community stakeholders and transportation department officials, designers wrote in the presentation. Landscaping underneath the bridge and at its walkway and road entrances will be designed using grasses, trees and plants, such as Texas sage, bird of paradise, red yucca and Texas sabal palms.
The bridge replacement project is expected to cost close to $1 billion. Ground breaking is planned for either late spring or early summer.
The Harbor Bridge, a bowstring span, was built in the 1950s to replace a drawbridge. It connects North Beach with the city’s Northside.
State officials say it needs to be replaced for safety reasons. Talk of doing so has circulated for years, but took on new urgency last year when the state named the team of Flatiron Construction and Dragados to design and build the span.
Elizabeth Chu Richter, CEO of Richter Architects in Corpus Christi, said designers struck a balance between both safety and pedestrians’ interests. That’s important for a community that is trying to bolster its tourism base and develop a more healthy living city vibe.
“A lot of people come to our city for conferences and vacations and stay downtown, but want to be connected with what goes on in North Beach,” said Richter, also a former president of the American Institute of Architects. “Anytime you make an important improvement to your infrastructure like this, you want to also have something in it that’s safe and pleasing to pedestrians and cyclists.”
The Harbor Bridge has a vertical clearance of 138 feet. Transportation officials envision the new bridge to be six lanes with a minimum 205-foot vertical clearance above the 400-foot-wide Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
The Port of Corpus Christi has long supported project. It believes the greater clearance will enable it to attract and accommodate larger vessels. The port has pledged to spend up to $20 million to purchase property and relocate residents of Hillcrest, a neighborhood that officials anticipate will be most affected by the construction.
The new bridge’s length may present a challenge for pedestrians and cyclists who are accustomed to the current span, Albin said.
The Harbor Bridge is about a mile long; walking it from the Galván House in Heritage Park to North Beach and back, as most Bridge Walk group members do, is 3.42 miles.
The new span, when complete, is expected to be the longest main span cable-stayed bridge in the United States and the third longest in the world. Only the Skarnsund Bridge in Norway and the Panama Canal Crossing will be longer.
It also will feature a more gradual incline, meaning access to it could be much farther away.
State officials plan to demolish the Harbor Bridge only after the new span is finished. Project designers estimate the entire process to roughly five years, or 1,760 days.
The new bridge eventually could mean changes to Corpus Christi’s annual Harbor Half Marathon, but not soon, race director Jayne Woodall said. The out-and-back course winds through historic areas of the city and crosses the Harbor Bridge at miles 2 and 10.
“It’s not really on the radar yet, but we know it’s coming,” Woodall said.