Residents and dignitaries made beelines for seats in the shade Friday morning as Denton dedicated a pedestrian bridge for Martin Luther King Jr.
About 75 people attended the formal ceremony dedicating the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Pedestrian Bridge to the slain civil rights leader, which included remarks and a ribbon-cutting at the foot of the 793-foot-long span.
The unveiling of the plaque that commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. revealed a second marker for former Denton City Council member Charlye Heggins, who advocated for the naming.
Heggins died May 29. Her son, James Fonteno, was included at the podium with officials from the city and Denton County Transportation Authority.
Fonteno told the crowd that he knew his mother had wanted to be at the dedication, and he had told her not to worry, she would be represented well. He said he understood his mother’s likely motives for naming the bridge for King.
“When someone comes across the name on this bridge, they will know there was a great story behind it,” Fonteno said.
His mother often told stories to him and his brothers to help them see more clearly or understand things better, he said.
“She was trying to introduce the value of stories to us,” Fonteno said. “Sometimes you can’t say what you need to say.”
Denton Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp and DCTA board chairman Charles Emery both told the crowd building the bridge, and naming it for King, took a long time.
In 2008, the bridge was one of many projects funded from the North Texas Tollway Authority’s $3.3 billion payment to build and operate State Highway 121 as a toll road. About $1.1 million was allocated to the bridge to help pedestrians and cyclists safely cross the six-lanes of Loop 288 near Colorado Boulevard.
Denton had applied for and received the toll road grant, pledging about $291,000 in matching funds. When construction costs came in higher than expected, the city staff cobbled together money from several other sources, including leftover funds from parks capital improvement projects, parks gas well revenue, interest earned on capital improvement bonds and other funds.
The city also used $30,000 it received from the Denton Crossing development project. A bridge was torn down when Loop 288 was widened and the shopping center was built. In May 2012, the Denton City Council awarded a $1.7 million contract to Massana Construction to build the bridge, and adopted the resolution naming it.
Friday’s event was ceremonial. The bridge was opened to bike and pedestrian traffic on May 29.
The bridge is one of the last elements needed to complete an 18-mile trail that follows the DCTA’s A-train rail line from Denton to Carrollton, all of which was first conceived in 2001, Emery said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.