Opening the 360 Bridge


THE WAY I REMEMBER IT

Loop 360 -- The Capital of Texas Highway -- was, and is, a big thing for Austin. As I recall, this project was done almost entirely by the Texas Highway Department (now known as TxDOT), since it was outside the city limits of Austin.

The last link to make it an operational transportation artery was the bridge over Lake Austin. Seems as though there was an unanticipated delay because some of the steel came from a foreign country, and they were running late. I recall that the developers of Barton Creek Mall were pushing me to push TxDOT to get it open before Christmas so that NW Austin would have better access to that new facility.

It was completed in a timely manner, and we were asked to do a proper "bridge opening ceremony" for the event. I picked a day when the Highway Commission was having their monthly meeting in Austin in November--I believe. Here was our plan:

We asked the Commission to break for lunch at 11 AM, at which time we were to pick them up at the Highway Building. Somehow I had acquired a limo for them. It took them to the "LCRA Dock" on Lake Austin where the Riverboat Commodore was waiting for them. Lunch was ready for them aboard the Riverboat.

While they were cruising up the lake, the limo drove around to the foot of the bridge to pick them up when they arrived, and bring them to the spot for the ceremony.

It all worked just as planned. I had acquired the use of a convertible that had been designed and built by a new Austin company. We placed it at the North end of the bridge and took the three Commissioners to the car. They hopped in at our signal, and headed for the South end of the bridge where the crowd had assembled, and where we had the "ribbon" for them to open the bridge. I didn't figure that a little Christmas ribbon would show up to well against the big bridge, so I brought a roll of red Christmas paper three feet wide and used it. The car with the Commissioners in it cut the ribbon very nicely.

It turned out to be a great "photo op" for the newspapers and TV stations--and the Commission and local officials. We reversed the route for their ride back to the Highway Building and a resumption of their meeting.

360 was now officially open--and I and the Highway Commission both survived.

Vic Mathias -- January 18, 2011

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