32nd St. bridge useless, expensive

To the editor,

During a Park & Rec meeting 2 weeks ago, it became very apparent that the large majority of Durango residents disapprove of the proposed 32nd Street bridge. Yet, the City, ignoring the cry of its citizens, is moving forward getting bids for the bridge, which is estimated to cost several millions of dollars. For what? Just to avoid crossing 32nd Street?

Here are major arguments against the bridge:

• For bicycles and pedestrians, crossing 32nd Street is now very safe (with a blinking light activated by cyclists/pedestrians) and the bridge has a wide sidewalk that is protected (from traffic) by a concrete parapet. Moreover, it is a 2-lane traffic with cars going only 25 mph, and there is easy/unobliterated view of the oncoming traffic on each side to cross safely.

• The bridge is going to be 22- to 30-feet tall. Very few people will want to hike up this tall bridge to descend on the other side and I bet most people (especially kids, older folks, injured and disabled people, and lazy people like me) will prefer staying at grade.

• The bridge will present a new hazard with some people trying to jump from it into the river or throw things on cars.

• The bridge is expected to have a glass cover where it goes over the train tracks to protect people against the train’s smoke and embers. This glass cover as well as the bridge itself are going to become covered in soot in no time, making the bridge look like a disgusting coal tunnel, obliterating the view, and requiring regular, specialized cleaning.  

• The bridge is outrageously expensive (cost estimated at ~$3.4 million) and these funds could be more wisely used for other projects improving the river trail itself that better serve the public’s needs. These projects could include:

• Building an underpass at Camino del Rio to connect the River Trail to downtown (which will be used by many more people than an overpass bridge at 32nd);

• Connecting the River Trail to Three Springs (thousands of people live in Three Springs and hundreds commute from town to the hospital and medical offices and it is very unsafe to ride the mile or so of highway to the river trail); 

• Connecting the River Trail to Twin Buttes (same comment; people who live in town would greatly appreciate safely riding their bikes to Twin Buttes to ride the trails there, instead of taking their cars);

• Fixing sections of the trail that have been damaged over time and are very unpleasant to ride (near the Power House);

• Toilets on the River Trail! Yes, toilets. For about six months out of the year, there are no functioning toilets on the entire trail because the flushing toilets that exist are closed from November - May due to potential freezing of the pipes. With sunny days and dirt trails being very muddy, the River Trail sees a lot of traffic every day of the winter, with hundreds of people using the trail and adjacent parks daily. Where do these people go to the bathroom? In the bushes (I have had to do it too) and in nearby businesses, when there are any. For instance, Santa Rita Park has dozens of parents and kids every day playing there – there are no toilets nearby. Is it what we teach our kids to do: urinate in public? Where do homeless people go? This is a menace to public health safety, a disgrace to the city and, frankly, plainly disgusting. I am ashamed of the situation when I have to explain to out-of-town people that there are no bathrooms.

Meanwhile, we are about to spend millions on a useless bridge … there is something wrong with this picture. These funds should be dedicated to building pit toilets (not flush toilets) along the trail. These toilets are cheap compared to flush toilets: $30,000 each compared to $600,000 for a flushing toilet (yes, that’s not a joke – but the poor management of spending city funds is a topic for another rant). The City could easily build 10 pit toilets along the trail and still have a lot of money left to do any of the proposed improvements above.

My fellow citizens, it is time we fight to spend our tax dollars wisely. Please email (even if it is brief) your disapproval to: CityCouncil@durangogov.org (and CC the Director of Parks and Rec:  cathy.metz@durangogov.org).

– Florence Paillard, Durango