Fox Point Moves to Demolish Footbridge
After years of debate, the Village Board is seeking bids for the removal of the Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge, although a private effort will continue to raise funds for a new bridge.
Fox Point's Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge seems destined for demolition, based on the Village Board's actions Tuesday night.
After three years of debating the future of the Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge, trustees asked Ayres Consulting to solicit bids for the removal of the bridge. The consultants have already estimated the bridge removal would cost $359,000, but the final bidding documents would also include the cost of limited landscaping of paths around the ravine.
Once the bids are solicited, trustees would have to give final approval for the demolition to move forward.
Official describes bridge as 'safety hazard'
The abutments and piers needed to support a future bridge will remain in tact, should the board decide to eventually construct a new bridge. But for now, the structure needed to be torn down, due mostly to safety concerns.
"This bridge is a safety hazard," said Trustee Douglas Frazer, who made the motion for the bridge's demolition bids. "It's been closed based on safety grounds for 2 1/2 years now. The time has come to start moving forward down the path the board has – upon a lot of consideration and reflection – determined is the best path with regard to the bridge."
Frazer supports the Footbridge Friends effort, and said he hopes the fundraising effort continues.
By removing the bridge, the board would, of course, no longer have the option to restore the existing bridge – which Village President Michael West said is not a cost-effective option.
"I do not believe it's a wise expenditure of public funds given the nature and extent of the deterioration," said West, pointing to photos of corroded steel beams, curved columns and shifted foundations.
Fundraising efforts will continue
Footbridge Friends President Barbara Dembski Schwartz said the fundraising group will continue its quest to raise $625,000 for a new bridge. Last month, the Footbridge Friends group announced more than 150 residents have contributed $212,000 in five months.
"In that time we have come to understand that our sincere love for the current bridge is not enough to keep it safely standing," Schwartz said at Tuesday night's meeting. "We have become convinced, after all those reports and meetings, that the time has come to build a new bridge that will meet safety standards, in a public-private partnership that is ever-more-common in today's world."
Schwartz said fundraising takes time, as evidenced in the early 1990s with the $160,000 Indian Creek playground project that spanned more than a year. She said the group continues to host small fundraising gatherings in people's homes.
West said the board has not closed off any options, and stressed the board is taking an incremental approach to the footbridge issue. Although the board originally reserved itself the right to reconsider the bridge project if the fundraising goal wasn't reached by Jan. 31, West said that timetable date doesn't effect future relations between the Friends group and the board.
"Let's say for example the Footbridge Friends came up with $550,000," West said after the meeting. "The Village Board still has the option to proceed. And by proceed, I mean take the next step."
The board voted 6-1 to request the bidding documents, with Trustee Beverly Bell casting the sole vote in opposition.
"I don't see the rationale of removing before you have a decision as to whether you are going to repair or restore," Bell said. "I believe there will be damage to the environment in the removal and in the replacement, if there is in fact replacement."