Bainbridge’s “Bridge to Nowhere” is back from the dead.
In a surprise reversal Tuesday, the Bainbridge Island City Council voted 4-3 to renew discussion of the controversial pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Highway 305 near Vineyard Lane.
The city council voted 5-2 last week to kill the project, but at this week’s council meeting, the $3 million bridge was brought back to life by Councilwoman Sarah Blossom and Councilman Joe Deets.
Both Blossom and Deets voted on Jan. 2 to abandon the plan for the proposed concrete span over the highway, but flipped their votes when reconsideration of the bridge was added to the council agenda at the start of the meeting.
The council voted 4-3 to reconsider its earlier decision on the bridge, with Councilmen Mike Scott and Kol Medina joining Blossom and Deets.
Councilmembers Ron Peltier, Matthew Tirman and Rasham Nassar voted no.
That vote was followed by another to rescind the decision to cancel the bridge project, with another 4-3 decision falling along the same lines.
“I was kind of on the fence when we voted,” Blossom recalled.
She said her reversal came after she thought about some of the comments made during last week’s meeting, and Blossom added that she was recently in Gig Harbor and saw several legs of the Cushman Trail, which left her impressed.
Blossom also said she’s heard some members of the public have talked about doing some private fundraising to help pay for the bridge.
“I’d like us to keep talking about it,” Blossom said.
Tirman said once again the bridge was in a poor location and the project was a poor choice for city funding.
“This bridge in that location has never made sense and it doesn’t pass the smell test for me,” Tirman said.
Deets, whose vote was critical in the council’s about-face, said he still wasn’t convinced that the project was needed, and questioned its cost.
“I do care about the finances; spending a million dollars is a million dollars,” Deets told his fellow council members. “I don’t think it’s a good use of city money.”
Even so, he said the city needs to talk about better connections on its transportation grid.
“305 splits the entire north end of the island. If we want to talk about being split by this highway, that’s us,” he said.
The bridge project is expected to be discussed at an upcoming council meeting.
Peltier said later he was unaware the bridge was going to be added to the agenda before it came up Tuesday night.
“A number of bridge supporters were in attendance in anticipation of the vote, clearly aware it would be happening in advance,” Peltier said Wednesday.
The 305 bridge issue was not included on this week’s city council agenda that was publicly available before the meeting, although some city officials have known for nearly a week that the bridge debate would be coming back to the city council.
According to city spokeswoman Kellie Stickney, Blossom emailed City Manager Doug Schulze on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 3, to ask about putting a motion to rescind the Jan. 2 council vote regarding the bridge on the agenda.
That prompted Schulze to tell the city’s public works director to delay notifying the Puget Sound Regional Council that the city had decided against accepting grant funding from that agency for the bridge.
Tirman later said he will continue to fight the project, which many have criticized as a waste of federal and city dollars. Opponents of the project contend that the bridge will be an expensive eyesore and will be little used by the public because of its terrible location.
“This is frustrating going from a 5-2 vote to cancel last week to a 4-3 vote for the council to reconsider,” Tirman said in an email to the Review.
“I still contend that the bridge is in the wrong place, and we need to be far more thoughtful about the use of city general funds. I will continue to push to reallocate the budget for this project for other more pressing multi-modal needs,” he added.
Deets said Wednesday that more talk on the 305 bridge would be helpful.
“My concerns about the existing bridge project, with its less than ideal location and financial burden, has not changed. I am not supportive of the city spending any more funds,” Deets said in an email.
“What has changed is the realization that completely shutting the door from any further discussion of what our options are does nothing to advance our vision for non-motorized transportation on the Island, and in fact it has the potential to cause harm,” he added.
“There is, on the other hand, no risk at all to simply continuing the discussion, which I believe makes it wholly worthwhile.”