Thunderous applause roared through the Fox Point Village Hall Tuesday night after a tearful Cissy Bryson, who lives near the Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge, talked about how a year without that bridge has been not only painful for her but many others as well.
"That beautiful walk has been closed for a year and here we are the peak of the fall color and we can’t cross that bridge," Bryson said. "There is no reason for that bridge to be closed."
The bridge between Barnett Lane and Bridge Lane has been closed since last October. At that time, Ayers, an engineering firm hired by the village, had done an inspection looking into the load capacity and safety of the bridge. Ayers said the number of people on the bridge at one time should not exceed eight, and if that number could not be controlled, they suggested it be closed until the footbridge could be repaired or replaced.
Now draped with bright orange snow netting to keep people off, and "Bridge Closed" and "No Trespassing" signs scattered in front of both entrances, the bridge has become an eyesore as far as many neighbors are concerened.
And those complaints continued Tuesday, as nearly 50 people showed up at a Village Board meeting to push for a speedy decision on the bridge's fate. The audience grandly applauded the half dozen residents who spoke to the board about the importance of the bridge.
Peter Richardson, who has lived in the village for 14 years, said the bridge was closed very quickly, but that same speed is not being applied to the reopening of the structure.
"I strongly encourage the Village Board to consider rehabilitating the existing bridge and doing what’s necessary to proceed," he said. "If you’re going to make that kind of decision (to close the bridge), then you have to proceed with deliberate speed to fix it for the people who live in that community. You took something away without asking, and I think it’s incumbent on the village to do something about it with reasonable speed."
Conor Neelan, an expert hired by residents, noted that a report by the village's own consultant, Graef and Ayers, shows that while portions of the bridge need to be replaced or repaired, a full replacement is not needed.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Neelan said. “I can’t find anywhere within the code that it is necessary to replace the bridge. There will be a savings of $800,000 and I’m sure the city can spend that on something more worthy. And as Ayers indicated themselves, it would scar the ravine.”
But even if nothing is done now, residents say they want the bridge reopened so it can be used until a decision is made on what to do with it.
“I think a lot of people are questioning why a bridge that could be here for 100 years could be closed without any advanced notice when it looks the same it did to me the day it was closed (as it did) 14 years ago," Richardson said.
The board did not take any action on the issue, but plans to get an updated report from its consultant on Nov. 8.