The Million Dollar Bridge
Paul Smith complained during the Meet the Candidates event that the city is about to squander “a million dollars” on a new bridge in Dodge Park. He further stated that this would be done to further the interest of commercializing the parks. Here are the facts.
The city has received a $651,000 federal grant via SEMCOG to replace the bridge. An additional $279,000 for the project will be funded directly by the city, resulting in a net expenditure of $930,000, which is not quite “a million dollars.” So, speaking strictly in terms of finances, Mr. Smith is overstating the cost of the bridge by 7%.
According to a press release by the city, the bridge has been examined and found to be structurally deficient, and it has been temporarily repaired until it can be replaced. So much for Mr. Smith’s claim that the existing bridge is perfectly good. Like the rest of the infrastructure in southeastern Michigan, this bridge is subject to the wear and tear of four seasons, and it is showing its age.
For your consideration are a couple of pictures of the bridge in question. The first two show what things look like during most of the year.
Nothing more than a relatively idyllic scene, right? What could possibly be wrong with this bridge?
Take a look at what happens when the river runs high, which is at least a couple of times per year in the spring.
As you can see, and as Mr. Smith recently complained, there are debris floating in the river all the time. The river often rises up to the level of the bridge, where the debris can impact its structure with considerable force.
It is no wonder this bridge has been deemed structurally deficient. As you can see in the photos, the bridge structure is rusting. It withstands significant impacts annually from floating debris when the river rises up. It has a wooden deck, and wooden safety railings. It is substandard and obsolete.
The bridge is also narrow. It is hard for two people on bicycles to pass each other going in opposite directions, and if someone on a wheelchair is on the bridge, he has to pretty much have it to himself.
Further, if somebody gets injured on one side of the bridge, and the closest emergency help is on the other side, there is no getting a vehicle across the current bridge. First responders will have to expend precious time going to a crossing point that can support a vehicle.
What’s more, the bridge is going to be part of a new nature trail that runs from southeastern Michigan all the way up to the Upper Peninsula. This nature trail is going to be busy. Probably at least as busy as the trail that runs along Metropolitan Parkway, if not more. An antiquated, narrow bridge such as this is not up to the task of supporting that level of traffic day in and day out. It will be a safety hazard and a bottleneck.
But according to Mr. Smith, upgrading it is a waste of money, even though the majority of the money is coming in from a federal grant. His good friend Janice Daniels famously rejected a large federal grant when she was the Mayor of Troy, MI. She claimed that spending $9M on a train station was a waste of taxpayer money so she blocked it. She got tossed out on her ear in a subsequent recall election for, curiously, making the same sort of homophobic comments that Mr. Smith has been known to make in public settings on signs.
Mr. Smith isn’t just for refusing to build this badly needed bridge. He’s against any use of taxpayer dollars that do not fit his personal needs. He’s been making statements on Facebook to the effect that the city should use the money to build sidewalks instead…through commercially-zoned areas where few if any people actually walk. Mr. Smith and his wife walk there, though, so that should become the priority, apparently.