Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Should Houston have its own version of the Sydney Bridge Climb?

I recently learned that there are plans to completely rebuild the Beltway 8 bridge over the ship channel even taller/higher than the existing (quite high) span.  It reminded me of my own amazing experience climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in 2014, which is the most popular tourist attraction in Sydney.  And it is a *huge* moneymaker: roughly $250 per person, with groups of 12 ($3k!) going out every few minutes all day long - do the math!  Honestly, it might generate more money than many of HCTRA's toll plazas.

So I'll raise the question: should we try to design our new bridge to offer a similar experience?  Yes, I understand that the ship channel view is not exactly Sydney Harbor, and that Houston is not a tourist destination the way Sydney is, but I still think it could be a popular attraction with an impressive view worth integrating into the new bridge design.  I will say from personal experience the view is only part of the experience - the thrill and adventure of the climb itself is a big part of it, and ours could be as impressive if not more than theirs.  In fact, theirs has a lot of cumbersome safety overhead because the bridge was never designed for tourists to climb it (continuously connected safety harnesses and those blue jumpsuit outfits so you can't drop anything on the cars below). If tourist climbing was integrated from the beginning, a lot of that hassle (and cost) could be eliminated.  There might even be an elevator and viewing platform option for the less adventurous (or disabled). And of course this assumes that the new bridge design would have very high tower pylons that would be worth climbing, not like the current design.  If it's cable-stayed like the Fred Hartman bridge, the climb (and elevator) could be integrated into one of the tall tower pylons (like this one in Maine) and/or the large main cable, rather than along the steel arch like in Sydney.

So cool idea or crazy? A tourist attraction to put Houston on the map? Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments...




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12 Comments:

At 1:05 AM, September 14, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

San Jacinto Monument is out that way but the rest of the channel is an industrial wasteland in the best possible way. Fred Hartman would be a better bridge row to do it on. You cannot see the monument from Beltway 8.

San Jacinto Monument is better than the Alamo because there is no Ripley's just after the exit; plus as a line in the movie Patton said (that may have been said by Patton): "I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country."

 
At 1:06 AM, September 14, 2016, Blogger JC said...

No. Just, no. View of...what? The refineries? The NASA campus? Climbing should be restricted to college campuses, and free. Okay, Miller theater in Herman Park is okay, but that's where I draw the line. Still need to do that stupid building on UH with the Greek Temple on it. And maybe teh Chapel of St Basil on UST campus. Should be able to chimney up the skylight slot...

 
At 1:27 AM, September 14, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

No, sell that idea to Dallas with the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. What would make more sense than using the Beltway 8 Bridge would be a Bridge replacing the Lynchburg Ferry with the San Jacinto bridge that has some pedestrian element.

 
At 1:32 AM, September 14, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

You cannot see the San Jacinto Monument from that bridge, so what exactly would you see that tourists want to see. If they replace the Linchburg Ferry then design that bridge for that.

 
At 1:37 AM, September 14, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

If we have the Tallest Monument Column in the world, on the spot where the blood of the Alamo was redeemed, and that isn't a big tourist draw, what would be one.

 
At 1:17 PM, September 14, 2016, Blogger ian said...

Have any of you actually driven over the current bridge? That view is OUTSTANDING. Natural beauty? Nah. Historical monuments? Not exactly. But a view of the industrial and shipping backbones that have helped define Houston's economic success over the past century. Oh, yeah. Killer view of our modern downtown peeking up from beyond the seeming chaos? HELL YES. Tory - I LOVE THIS IDEA.

 
At 1:18 PM, September 14, 2016, Blogger ian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:07 PM, September 14, 2016, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks Ian! Well articulated - I totally agree!

 
At 3:37 PM, September 14, 2016, Blogger ian said...

No problem. When I first read this post, it seemed like such a no-brainer that I didn't think to post :-) Further thought for the skeptics: have you been on the Sam Houston Boat Tour yet? You get to see: ships. Refineries. Warehouses. Loading cranes. The kind of boring industrial wasteland stuff you'd be able to see from the bridge. And it's really cool -- and has gotten really popular (you have to RSVP months in advance). If people are willing to go on a boat ride to see this stuff, why wouldn't they pay a little money to get a once-in-a-lifetime vista of it?

 
At 5:08 PM, September 14, 2016, Blogger George Rogers said...

I need to go on the boat tour next time. Only had a weekend and didn't have time to RSVP. That stuff is cool but it is not moron tourist crap, but if sold correctly maybe with movie placement it could work perfectly. Excellent photo op. Fred Hartman would be prefered but either would be good. The replacement for the Sydney Sherman Bridge might also be perfect for this.

I have a better and cheaper idea than the bridge climb like the one in sydney, is to have the Sam Houston Boat tour start and end at Lynchburg Ferry and include in it for extra cash a harbor pilot experience with you climbing a ladder on to a bridge or a bridge of a old ship. I wouldn't do it only because I'm afraid of falling.

I really liked the view of the San Jacinto Monument. One of my favorite things is going past the Jolet ExxonMobil Refinery at night on I55.

 
At 11:17 AM, September 15, 2016, Anonymous freddyrun said...

Alternately, an observatory like that I've been to in coastal Maine:
http://maine.gov/mdot/pnbo/



 
At 9:22 PM, September 15, 2016, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Love it Freddy! Thanks for the link. I've updated the post with it!

 

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