September 16, 2013
Charlottesville City Council are looking for a new design for the Belmont Bridge and want to know what kind of bridge the community wants.
Council received an update on the Belmont Bridge proposals. The current options are either replacing the bridge for about $15 million or building an underpass for about $27 million.
Multiple councilors and residents said they want a bridge iconic of Charlottesville.
"I thought that the Project Gateway competition and the architecture school competition were both fantastic and sent very important messages to MMM design and the city regarding the type of bridge or underpass that's needed," said Tim Freilich, a Belmont neighborhood resident. "I have a tremendous respect for the folks who have caused the entire design process be slowed down to have the city consider dramatically different alternatives to the original proposed highway overpass replacement which would be a tremendous lost opportunity for the community. To actually create a connection to downtown that's beautiful, iconic, that is safe for bicycles and pedestrians, for families walking across with their kids."
"We need to estimate some contingencies for the extra cost for design for a bridge that this public would really fall in love with and feel is becomes iconic of the city," councilor Kathy Galvin said.
Creating good-quality pedestrian walkways and bike paths were also discussed. VDOT does not fund the pedestrian part of the bridge, so any pedestrian path would have to be designed separately, therefore plans aren't clear yet.
Council asked for a new design that focuses on a new, enhanced bridge option.
"My wife and girls and I, we love to walk across the bridge, we love the trains, the sunsets. I think what's really needed is a third enhanced bridge option we haven't seen yet," said Freilich. "I cannot see myself, my wife, or my girls walking under the underpass at night. I think it would end up being more like a tunnel."
Council and those at the meeting Monday night also discussed having an at-grade pedestrian crossing, a way for people to cross the railroad which would be the same level as the tracks. Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville's Director of Neighborhood Development Services, said the railroad does not like this option because it feels an at-grade pedestrian crossing is unsafe.
"The railroad is concerned about safety," said Tolbert explained to Councilor Dede Smith when she inquired about an at-grade pedestrian crossing. "They have said they're not even gonna debate about it and it's their call."
"People are crossing anyway, so what does the railroad say about that?" asked Smith.
"They would like our police to issue tickets as often as possible," said Tolbert.
Along with the new design, council asked to get public feedback on what they want to see in the Belmont Bridge.