Atlanta mayor defends cost overruns for Falcons pedestrian bridge as “saving lives”

Just what exactly is it with the Atlanta area and forgetting to plan for ways for fans to get to new sports stadiums? In the wake of the Cobb County Braves pedestrian bridge fiasco, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed last month that a pedestrian bridge to the Falcons‘ new stadium could cost $23.2 million, almost double what Mayor Kasim Reed promised in July. And now Reed has fired back that okay, maybe, but it’s worth every penny, dammit:

In 21st Century America, a city’s connectivity and walkability are major factors in attracting and retaining young, skilled workers and the companies looking to hire them. The steady influx of businesses and new residents to the City of Atlanta in 2016 is directly related to this strategy. Moreover, this growth is strengthening our economy across all sectors, leading to lower unemployment and greater opportunities for our residents.

The new bridge over Northside Drive linking Westside neighborhoods to Downtown Atlanta is a major example of an essential infrastructure piece that will improve – and possibly save – residents’ lives. The bridge will offer a safe crossing of Northside Drive, which for years has been a dangerous barrier preventing easy passage from the Westside to Downtown’s economic and cultural opportunities.

Okay, yeah, I think everyone can agree that people like to be able to cross highways without having to run through traffic. The bigger point here is that the city is suddenly facing a previously unannounced $23.2 million cost for a project to support a pro football stadium. While Reed insisted that the bridge was part of a community benefits plan, the AJC found that “none of those claims are backed up by the public record,” and quoted one of the community plan’s architects as saying they’re a load of crap:

Rev. Anthony A.W. Motley, a major participant in helping craft the Community Benefits Plan, scoffed at the assertion.

“To try and justify the bridge on the basis of a connection to poor people in the community is an insult to everything that we have proposed, particularly as it relates to the Community Benefits Plan,” Motley said. “The bridge has nothing to do with the community, and to say that it does shows contempt for the community and a flagrant disregard for the truth.”

Back on the Braves bridge front, meanwhile, the latest report is that six months after construction started in June, and with four months to go to opening day, the bridge was 40% complete. That doesn’t seem like a very promising pace, but Cobb’s transportation director Jim Wilgus said he hopes it will be “operational” by opening day April 14, even if not “totally complete” until the summer. Everybody hold on!


8 comments on “Atlanta mayor defends cost overruns for Falcons pedestrian bridge as “saving lives”

  1. I wonder how much of a donation to the Rev’s church it will take to shut him up & change his tune. It seems random to complain about the bridge.

    • You need to re-read the article because it’s not random at all. He was asked about this bridge because he was on the committee that developed the community benefits plan that this bridge was allegedly part of according to the mayor. He answered the question by saying this bridge never was part of that plan and that the mayor was full of it. That all seems quite consistent with the fact that nobody has yet found any public discussion of this bridge which quite possibly was totally overlooked until somebody had an “oh, crap” moment trying to figure out how people were supposed to get from Point A to Point B.

  2. Atlanta is spending $20+ million to cross a six-lane thoroughfare that they already cross now because they just HAVE to. Nevermind installing a nice pedestrian stop light like they have south of my neighborhood for a couple thousand dollars because that makes NO sense.

    • Back before the stadium, though, there were probably fewer rich baseball fans crossing that six lane road.

      I think we know from the actions and statements of our elected leaders that when wealthy people are injured in traffic accidents (or just inconvenienced by having to wait for traffic), it is a tragedy.

      It is much less an issue when the poor people who have been crossing these roads for ages get hit by cars, except in the sense that the delay might inconvenience the wealthy baseball fans who are forced to wait in their cars while the mess is cleared up. So that’s whey they need to build something safer now. I can’t wait to see the design to see if only baseball fans will be allowed onto it (IE: it can’t be used for anything other than going to the stadium), or if the poor folks can use it to more safely cross the road too.

      At one time, this would have been called satire. Now, sadly, it is the truth…

    • Pedestrian stop lights are great but not for an application like this. Really hard to handle herds of hundreds or even thousands with a pedestrian light while you have huge chunks of traffic simultaneously trying to get in and out of there. It creates gridlock and invites people getting impatient and darting through traffic.

  3. It’s important to note that the location of the bridge crossing an intersection that is already signalized. In other words, there already is a safe crossing for people walking here. A few things could be done to improve the experience and safety of people crossing Northside Dr, all of which do not need a bridge: improved signal timing (although, since the Georgia Dome is being replaced with Mercedes Benz, it’s unclear that there would be any overall increase in usage; due to the sporadic nature of events at football stadiums, the presence of traffic officers can help with game-day traffic and mobility; a raised intersection and/or scramble crossing would lead to a safer and pedestrian-only phase.

    In any event, ped bridges are dumb. Most ped/bike planners today will tell you that the safest thing is to make at-grade crossings as safe as possible and to reduce inducements to speed along corridors.

  4. Isn’t karma wonderful. Arthur Blank and Kasim Reed screw the taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars, and the Falcons suffer what might be the single biggest disgrace in Super Bowl history.

    Wonderful!

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