June 16, 2014
Over or under? The future of the Belmont Bridge was up for debate at City Council.
Should it remain a bridge or be turned into an underpass was the focus of a lot of discussion.
Charlottesville City Council heard feedback from the public on each of four options for the Belmont Bridge.
The Council has three alternatives to the basic bridge replacement plan, in addition to a concept for an underpass in front of them. Most of the people that spoke during the comment period were in favor of the underpass option.
Commenters focused on how it would impact foot traffic, local businesses, the attraction of our area to visitors, even the health of residents.
Hunter Smith owns Champion Brewery. He says most of his business comes from foot traffic and he's a fan of the underpass.
"People come straight from the downtown mall to visit us. They're doing so in a pretty unattractive way. And I think the bridge really creates an “us and them” sort of perspective."
Belmont resident Amy Gardner told Councilors it was their chance to leave a legacy behind.
"We can’t afford to miss rare and unique opportunities to enhance our connectivity while creating thoughtful places for smart development."
Dr. Greg Gelburd, who has a nearby practice, said the pedestrian nature of the underpass would promote walking.
"It would get my patients, our citizens of Charlottesville to walk more. If people walk more, they are more invested in their community, their more invested in their health, they are healthier."
A surprise snag? Jim Tolbert of neighborhood development services says VDOT alerted the city two weeks ago that there is a 2 million dollar shortfall for whatever project is chosen.
He says they are working to recover it, but that's still unknown.
No resolution has been made at this point. City council listened to what everyone had to say, they'll take it under advisement, and be back to hash it out and make a decision at their July 7th meeting.