Bridge supporters urge new public hearings

ALBANY -- A group trying to save the Broad Avenue Bridge from demolition and reconstruction sent out emails to local and state stakeholders urging them to call a new round of public hearings on the span, citing information that reconfiguration as a pedestrian bridge was never considered by the public.

An email sent by Njemile Z. Ali and Christopher Fullerton focuses on trying to get policymakers at both the state and local levels to delay plans to demolish the bridge until at least July, when a regional special sales tax referendum for transportation projects is set to go to the voters.

The group contends that there is new information that stakeholders should consider before allowing the bridge to be demolished.

"This revised Request is intended to draw attention to the urgent need to hold a new Public Hearing Open House to address new information and take into account changed conditions which were not easily apparent earlier in the planning process," the email states. "In addition, as part of these procedural hearings, the letting of the bid for demolition out to contract should be postponed until Albany residents have an opportunity to review the issue with more complete information and the results of the July TSPLOST vote are known."

The two men contend that those who attended the public hearings were told that rehabilitation of the bridge was an impossibility, that the focus of the discussion was on vehicular traffic with very little focused on pedestrians, and that little or no discussion was given toward accessibility for those with disabilities.

They are part of a larger group known as the Friends of the Broad Avenue Memorial Bridge, which organized after the public hearings had been held and the decisions had been made on the bridge, which was condemned after divers discovered eroded footings more than two years ago.

The group is asking that local officials hold off demolition until voters can decide the T-SPLOST initiative, which, among other things, will fund a new bridge across the Flint River at Clark Avenue. The group argues a Clark Avenue bridge would give city and state officials more reason to keep the current Broad bridge as a pedestrian span.

"We now turn to you and ask that you exercise your authority as stewards of the public trust to ensure that our landmark Broad Avenue Memorial Bridge be preserved for present and future generations," the email states. "Historic bridge pedestrianization projects have produced remarkable private sector responses, from Prague to New York City, and from Chattanooga to Columbus.

"With the guidance of visionary civic leaders like yourselves, Albany is primed to create its unique 'destination bridge.' We believe that your review of these facts will show the potential for the strategic leveraging of public dollars to generate large-scale and sustainable private-sector investment on both banks of the Flint River."