To the editor:
Before a full house Tuesday night, the newly-sworn-in Bainbridge Island City Council stopped the design effort for the pedestrian bridge over Highway 305. In the end it was clear that the opponents of the bridge, by labeling it the “Bridge to Nowhere” had done their damage and sealed its fate.
A truly impressive array of local citizen volunteers spoke eloquently to the advantages of the bridge. From past leaders and members of the Multi-modal Transportation Committee and Planning Commission to many of the islands most respected environmental leaders, a succession of speakers testified that the bridge would be perhaps the most positive thing the city could do to ensure a bike-able and walkable Winslow. Opponents often cited misconceptions such as the idea that we could cancel the bridge and still use the grant money for other uses.
Councilman Peltier began his crusade against the bridge in the summer and took the unprecedented steps of coming to the designer’s first public presentation to derail it with calls to kill the project instead of letting the contractor do what the city had paid them to do. Councilman Nassar went so far on Tuesday night to admit that the bridge proponents had not had sufficient time to sell it to the public and that the opposition was largely based on incomplete information. Councilmen Tirman summed up the three new member’s positions: They ran on killing the bridge so they must. New Councilman Deets, and Nassar, both received endorsement and lots of campaign support by Climate Action Bainbridge. Following this vote, I seriously question each of these council member’s commitment to sustainability. This vote makes me fearful that any of the progressive goals in the Comprehensive Plan will be realized. If it means spending money, don’t count on it.
Two million dollars of hard-fought federal grant made this bridge a very good deal for the city financially. The rest of the money is already in the budget. No new taxes are needed (or even possible under the law). The upcoming Core 40 Shoulder Initiative, will do a lot to make COBI bike-able, but less to improve walkability. Core 40 will be paid for by a $15 million future bond measure – that will absolutely raise taxes. Killing the bridge that helps all non-motorized users and which would have been an asset to the community for generations to come is penny wise and pound foolish.
Cancelling the bridge before 30 percent design is completed was rejection of the work of previous city councils and dozens of volunteers who have been planning for a better Bainbridge transportation network for 15 years. Highway 305 is a .8-mile barrier on the super block from High School Road to Winslow Way. Everyone knows 305 will get more traffic and probably expand forever.
The bridge was a unique opportunity to connect our neighborhoods, public facilities and commercial interests on both sides of the highway now and forever.