Islanders find few nice things to say about 305 bridge design

The less they see, the more they like.

That’s the shared sentiment from most of the people who answered the city of Bainbridge Island’s recent survey on the proposed pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Highway 305.

City officials recently conducted an online survey to get input on seven different design options for the bridge, an extension of the Sound to Olympic Trail that would cross 305 south of High School Road.

More than 200 people took the online survey and picked out their three favorite designs.

The most popular first choice was the curved truss design, favored by 25 percent of those who took the survey.

The second choice was the “Cascadian” design (24.09 percent), with a timber arch bridge style coming in third (13.18 percent).

Many of those who added comments to the survey said they preferred a “low profile” bridge that was less intrusive and stayed in line with local character.

Wrote one commenter: “Simple. Not distracting. We aren’t an island of architecture. We are an island of nature.”

The top two choices are some of the most simple designs prepared for the city by Otak, a Portland, Oregon-based engineering firm hired by Bainbridge as consultants for the bridge project.

Otak also prepared designs for a rustic suspension bridge, as well as a modern cablestay span that some felt evoked a sailboat style.

Many who took the survey were not swayed by the more elaborate designs.

“This is a selection of rather fufu designs,” wrote one person who took the survey. “What has the designer been tasked with doing? Obviously not to design a functional, economic bridge that has efficient use of materials and elegance in proper proportion.”

While none of the seven bridge designs gained a plurality from those who took the survey, one suggestion may have gotten a majority nod if it had been included in the poll: no bridge at all.

Indeed, many of those who took the survey complained that “no bridge” was not an option.

Opposition to the proposed span isn’t exactly new, however. The pedestrian/bicycle bridge was highly controversial even before this year’s city council races heated up, with many islanders saying the bridge was not needed and would be a costly eyesore on Bainbridge’s scenic highway corridor. And some critics have dubbed the span the “Bridge to Nowhere,” due to its lack of connections to existing bike paths or walking routes.

Those themes resurfaced again and again in comments submitted by those who recently took the city survey, and it’s clear that some who took the survey only did so to voice their displeasure over the bridge project.

One person who took the poll voted for the smallest proposed bridge design, “so I don’t have to see it and be reminded of the wasted tax dollars COBI spent.”

“We do not need a bridge in this location — and I am a huge walker in this area. This is a waste of money,” added another.

“None of the above. This is a horrific waste of time, energy and money.”

Indeed, many of those who offered comments complained about the money that would be spent on the bridge, which will cost more than $3 million, of which the city is expected to contribute $1 million.

Many who took the survey seized on idea of spending taxpayer money more wisely:

“This bridge should not be built. It only serves ONE condo community – and they already have a trail to a crosswalk a block away AND they do not want the bridge. Stupid waste of money!”

“I prefer no bridge at all. The city cannot justify a bridge at this location. The city should take the funds they expect to spend on this project and put it towards a simpler, low key pathway and extend the STO [Sound to Olympic Trail] as far north as possible. “

“I do not believe our city funds should be used for this bridge at all. Only a few council members and developers who are friends of council members want it.”

“This bridge is not needed. A complete waste of taxpayer money. City can not even produce a feasibility study indicating estimate number of crossings on a daily and monthly basis. Minimal community support for this proposed project.”

“Spend the money on something of more use to the wider community instead. Please.”

“This is a total misuse of funds. You are breaking the public trust in your stewardship.”

Some of those who took the survey did say they supported the bridge.

A few said it would be a good reflection of the Bainbridge community, or noted that harsh opinions now could soften with the passage of time.

“I believe strongly in the benefit of inspired civic architecture and look forward to this bridge being a symbol of our creative community,” wrote one person.

“Love the bridge idea. Please build this!” added another.

And there was this forecast: “Our community will appreciate this bridge with time. The same type of situation as when the traffic circle on Madison and High School Road was built.”

Regardless of the love/hate responses to the proposed bridge, results of the survey will likely sit on the shelf until the new year.

City officials had previously planned to ask the city council this month to pick a finalist from one of the seven proposed designs.

But as controversy over the bridge continued to bubble over as an election issue — amid the realization that enough votes to kill the project would be in place once a new council was seated in January — city officials decided to put off any additional talk of the bridge until 2018.